The CDC is closely monitoring a deadly influenza virus circulating in China that reportedly has the potential to spread around the world. "Infections during 2021 have doubled the number of such cases detected since this virus was first found in people in 2014, raising concerns about the risk of additional human zoonotic infections and the pandemic potential of this virus."
Prior to getting sick, most patients had been exposed to birds. Also, the three most recent illnesses occurred in people who were hospitalized or in critical condition, per the CDC. In total, 25 of the 51 confirmed cases so far have resulted in death.
China regularly immunizes chickens against avian influenza, but the vaccine used last year may only protect against new variants to a limited extent. The specific strain (H5N6) has a mortality rate of approximately 67%. And since more cases of bird flu are being reported than what would typically be expected in a normal year, many experts are worried this variant is highly transmissible. An article recently published on the Chinese Centers for Disease Control website said the "increasing genetic diversity and geographical distribution of H5N6 pose a serious threat to the poultry industry and human health," per Reuters.
According to the CDC, "Avian influenza is a disease caused by infection with type A bird flu viruses. These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. Bird flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with these viruses do occur. This is concerning because of the possibility that bird flu viruses could change and gain the ability to spread easily between people, with the potential to cause a flu pandemic; therefore, continued monitoring for human infections of bird flu and person-to-person spread is extremely important."
The news surrounding Avian Influenza comes as public health advisors (such as Dr. Fauci) urge the public to get vaccinated against the flu. Walgreens, CVS, and many other pharmacies offer free flu shots with most types of health insurance. Alternatively, if you don't have health insurance, many local health departments offer free vaccines at pop-up clinics.
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This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Although the flu vaccine is safe and effective, you should still consult a doctor before making any decisions that could impact your health.
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