H6N1 bird flu virus spread to humans
Influenza viruses that have jumped from animals to humans have caused excitement worldwide several times in the past. Swine flu and bird flu have been a household name since then. Taiwanese researchers from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention have now been able to detect an infection with the H6N1 avian influenza virus in humans for the first time. In the worst case, the pathogens could develop in such a way that they are transmitted from person to person and thus trigger a pandemic, the researchers fear.
The H6N1 virus is one of the most common viruses in wild and domesticated bird species, but so far no human infection with this virus has been known. This has now changed with the discovery of the Taiwanese researchers. As they report in the specialist magazine "Lancet Respiratory Medicine", the influenza virus H6N1 was found in a throat swab in a 20-year-old woman who was hospitalized with flu-like symptoms and respiratory complaints in May 2013.
Risk of a global pandemic? The researchers write that this is "the first report of a human infection with a wild avian influenza A H6N1 virus". The viruses have thus proven that they can develop into pathogens that are pathogenic to humans and that, in the worst case, the risk of human-to-human transmissions also threatens in future, the scientists conclude. "Our report highlights the ongoing need to prepare for a pandemic with unpredictable and complex avian influenza viruses," the researchers continued. Although the 20-year-old patient was able to be helped relatively quickly with the help of common flu drugs, and until now she has worked like the rare individual case of an infection with H6N1, but the Taiwanese scientists have not yet been able to make a final assessment of the risk. (fp)
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