An 11-year-old woman in Cambodia has died in hospital after catching chicken flu. Her father has examined optimistic for the virus accountable, however it’s unclear whether or not he caught the an infection from her or the household’s poultry assortment
24 February 2023
A woman has died from chicken flu in Cambodia after presumably catching it from her household’s small flock of chickens and geese. Not less than considered one of her shut contacts has additionally examined optimistic, however authorities are nonetheless ready on the outcomes of testing her wider circle.
How many individuals have died from chicken flu within the newest cluster of instances?
An 11-year-old woman from Cambodia has died from a subtype of the chicken flu virus referred to as H5N1 within the rural Prey Veng province, a area near the capital Phnom Penh. She developed flu-like signs on 16 February and after her situation deteriorated, she was despatched to hospital, the place she died. Out of 12 of her shut contacts who’ve been examined, solely her father has to this point been discovered to be optimistic for the virus.
How did she catch it?
It may have been from her household’s small assortment of geese and chickens, as all of the animals at her residence – 22 chickens and three geese – had lately died, based on BNO Information, however the reason for their deaths is unknown. There have additionally been a variety of fatalities amongst wild birds within the space.
Is chicken flu now spreading between individuals?
Even when extra of the woman’s 12 contacts take a look at optimistic, this doesn’t imply the virus has advanced to unfold simply between individuals. Her father and another instances may have caught the virus immediately from contaminated birds, says Wendy Barclay at Imperial School London. “If she’s had contact with yard poultry, there’s an opportunity that pals she performed with have additionally had contact [with the birds],” she says.
Ought to we count on extra instances?
Since 2021, chicken flu has been surging in wild chicken populations and spreading to home poultry flocks and sometimes different animals, resembling foxes and seals, which eat birds. That raises the chance of the virus crossing over to individuals, says James Wooden on the College of Cambridge. “We count on there to be some instances of [human] illness with such a widespread an infection,” Wooden mentioned in a press release to the Science Media Centre within the UK.
How lethal is chicken flu in individuals?
Over the previous 20 years, there have been about 900 recognized instances of human an infection with varied strains of H5N1, of which about half have been deadly. However the loss of life price could seem greater than it truly is as a result of there are more likely to be many instances the place individuals didn’t develop signs or weren’t examined for the virus, says Barclay. There’s now considered about 30 totally different genetic variants of H5N1 viruses circulating in birds, which most likely differ of their means to make individuals sick.
Has vaccine manufacturing begun?
Mass manufacturing of a chicken flu vaccine can’t start as a result of we don’t but know which variant, if any, may make the leap to begin freely spreading between individuals. The effectiveness of flu vaccines hinges on making them from viruses which might be as shut a match as potential to the one that individuals finally catch.
Producers are about to begin making the standard seasonal vaccines forward of the northern hemisphere’s winter. In the event that they have been to change to creating H5N1 vaccines prematurely, that may threat not sufficient seasonal flu vaccines being accessible later this yr. “Seasonal vaccine is essential in saving lives,” Sylvie Briand on the World Well being Group (WHO) mentioned at a press convention this week. “You might want to stability the dangers and advantages if you speak about switching vaccines.”
However producers routinely perform preparatory work utilizing “candidate vaccine viruses” and the WHO has requested them to do that utilizing a choice of the H5N1 viruses, the organisation introduced this week.
Are there any therapies?
There are a number of antiviral therapies for seasonal flu, resembling oseltamivir (Tamiflu), which has been used as a remedy in addition to a preventative drugs among the many shut contacts of individuals recognized to have chicken flu.
In a number of instances, the H5N1 virus advanced resistance to oseltamivir, though this appeared to be linked with the virus additionally turning into much less virulent and fewer transmissible. On the press convention, the WHO mentioned it has been in talks with producers of antivirals about how rapidly they may scale up manufacturing.
What occurs if chicken flu does begin spreading between individuals?
Briand has mentioned that if human-to-human transmission have been found, well being authorities would attempt to forestall additional crossover occasions from animals to individuals, in addition to aiming to cease the virus’s unfold between individuals. This could be “by treating instances, isolating instances in order that they don’t additional transmit the virus and in addition figuring out contacts”, she mentioned. “We are able to use antivirals to deal with contacts for post-exposure prophylaxis and scale back the chance of additional human transmission.”
The WHO would additionally attempt to put together neighbouring areas for additional unfold utilizing intense surveillance of viruses, informing communities about tips on how to scale back their threat of an infection and serving to healthcare employees keep away from an infection with protecting gear.
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