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Bird flu is rampant in animals. Humans ignore it at our own peril

·1 min

2022 was a challenging summer for Mark Naniot, co-founder of an animal rescue organization in Wisconsin. They faced numerous infectious diseases, including Covid-19, chronic wasting disease in deer, and H5N1 bird flu. H5N1 is a highly transmissible virus that has infected and killed millions of birds and has been found in various mammals. While humans can be infected by H5N1, it is not well-adapted to us and rarely spreads between people. However, if the virus mutates in a way that allows it to infect humans more effectively, it could pose a significant threat. Naniot witnessed this firsthand when fox kits brought into their rescue facility showed severe seizures due to H5N1 infection. Although H5N1 infections in humans have been sporadic and often mild, there have been cases of severe illness and death. The virus has the potential to cause a human pandemic if it gains the ability to spread efficiently among people. Research suggests that previous exposure to seasonal flu strains may provide some level of immunity, but vaccination remains important. Currently, the risk to the general public from H5N1 is considered low, but precautions should be taken by those working with infected animals. Authorities are developing a rapid test for H5N1.