Avian influenza: FAO: H5N1

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Avian influenza: FAO: H5N1
Avian influenza: FAO: H5N1

FAO: H5N1 virus still active

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns of a renewed flare-up of bird flu caused by the dangerous H5N1 strain: there are currently active and known sources of infection in eight countries. In addition, an epidemic caused by H5 viruses broke out on a Hungarian goose farm on Wednesday – laboratory tests have yet to clarify whether it is the dangerous subtype N1.

H5N1 outbreaks and human deaths currently affect China, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Nigeria and Egypt, as well as Japan and South Korea, which were temporarily considered H5N1-free. However, the FAO confirms that the number and extent of these bird flu outbreaks is significantly smaller than a year ago, which is also due to the mild winter weather so far. In addition, migratory birds would probably have been less responsible for the spread of the virus from Asia to Europe and Africa last autumn - a view that is still controversial. Accordingly, the FAO also demands strict controls on the poultry trade and faster reporting of suspected H5N1 cases. The authorities have now killed 3,000 birds in the infected breeding farm in Hungary and set up restricted zones around the focus of infection. In the last few days, a striking number of the geese kept died there.

Meanwhile, various press outlets - including the New Scientist and the Japanese newspaper Kyodo News - published that according to scientific research in certain regions of Indonesia, one in five domestic cats carries antibodies against H5N1 in their blood. This was discovered by the Indonesian virologist Chairul Anwar Nidom from Airlangga University in Surabaya on Java after taking blood samples from several hundred stray cats in five locations on Sumatra and Java.

However, these results have not yet been confirmed by other scientists or published in specialist journals and are therefore considered untested. Nevertheless, she considers Albert Osterhaus from the Erasmus University in Rotterdam to be plausible, after all, infected cats were found dead and alive on Rügen and in Austria last year. Under certain circumstances, some researchers fear, these mammals could act as intermediate hosts for the bird flu virus, in which the pathogen mutates and thus becomes more dangerous for humans.

To date, according to the World He alth Organization, 269 people worldwide have been infected with H5N1, 163 of whom have died - most in Vietnam and Indonesia. In the first three weeks of this year, the WHO recorded six cases and five deaths, all of which occurred in Indonesia except for one case in Egypt.

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