Influenza specialists meet: H5N1 flu threat for humans on the agenda


eMediNexus    26 February 2023

The top influenza experts gathered this week to discuss the danger posed to people by a strain of the H5N1 avian flu that has recently been responsible for unprecedented bird deaths worldwide.


Scientists have been monitoring the H5N1 clade since it first appeared in 2020. Recent reports of enormous fatalities in afflicted mammals and suspected mammal-to-mammal transmission on a Spanish mink farm last year have aroused concerns.


However, there have only been a few human cases, and the WHO currently rates the threat to humans as minimal. But experts consider vaccine development necessary.


Sylvie Briand, WHO director of global infectious hazard preparedness, stated that the recent increase in cases in birds and mammals was "worrying" and that the agency was cooperating with Cambodia after two confirmed human cases of H5N1 were discovered there in a single household. Scientists are attempting to ascertain whether there was human-to-human transmission or if the family members were exposed to the virus through the environment.


Health professionals have suggested that the virus would need to mutate for human transmission to be possible.


WHO-affiliated labs have two flu virus strains closely related to the circulating H5N1 virus, which manufacturers could use to create a human vaccine if needed. The experts added another subtype that closely matches the virus spreading among animals.


Vaccine makers that produce seasonal flu vaccines can also make pandemic flu vaccines, and GSK and CSL Seqirus are working with BARDA to test shots based on one of the closely related strains.


Briand claimed these strains could save about two months in developing a vaccine, but getting enough vaccines developed quickly would remain a challenge in a pandemic.


(Source: https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/industry/flu-experts-gather-with-h5n1-risk-on-the-agenda/98225945)

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