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Mexico Man Dies from First Human Case of Rare Bird Flu Strain: What We Know

Scientists are monitoring the spread of the H5N2 strain of the virus, after the WHO announced the death.

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A man in Mexico has died after being infected by a rare strain of bird flu, called A(H5N2), that has never before been found in a human, said the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday, 5 June.

According to the WHO, the deceased, a 59-year-old man, had been hospitalised in Mexico City after developing severe symptoms of avian flu including fever, shortness of breath, diarrhoea and nausea before he died on 24 April.

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How did the man get infected? Although there had been three poultry outbreaks of H5N2 in nearby parts of Mexico in March, health authorities haven’t been able to link those to the deceased.

"The source of exposure to the virus in this case is currently unknown, but A(H5N2) viruses have been reported in poultry in Mexico."
WHO in a statement

What makes this case notable: This is the first time this particular strain of bird flu has been detected in humans. While the Mexico government reported an outbreak of A(H5N1) in the western state of Michoacan back in March, at the time it had said the strain didn't pose a risk to humans.

After the death, however, Mexican health authorities confirmed the presence of the virus and reported the case to the WHO, according to the agency. They have also said that they are monitoring the spread of the strain closely.

The bigger picture: Different parts of the world have been sporadically having outbreaks of the H5N1 bird flu virus, especially in species of animals that have never had it before.

In April, a bird flu outbreak was confirmed in Kerala's Alappuzha after ducks in two districts tested positive for it.

Meanwhile, the United States is currently seeing an outbreak with around 39 cases of bird flu reported in the country since the beginning of 2024.

However, health authorities have reiterated that this particular case in Mexico is unrelated to any of these outbreaks as they involve a different strain of the virus altogether.
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Before you hit the panic button: According to Mexico's health authorities, in the case of the person who died, so far there's been no evidence of person-to-person transmission of the virus.

Moreover, the WHO has also said that the current risk of bird flu to the general population in Mexico, and human populations in general is still low.

Speaking to FIT, Dr Jacob T John, co-chair of India Technical Advisory Group (GoI) on Immunisation explained, "H5N1 is not a pandemic-prone virus because it is not very transmissible. Yes, humans can get infected and when humans get infected it can cause severe disease. But the risk of infection is extremely low."

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Bird Flu   Bird flu outbreak 

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