Concerns grow over bird flu's human risks

Avian flu's spread among mammals is elevating concerns about the risk the disease may pose to humans.

As it stands, the risk posed to humans is low, but experts say enhanced surveillance and continued research is needed as it continues to spread among other animals, according to a March 5 report from CBS Philadelphia, which cited an H5N1 outbreak last year that officials believe led to the death of 18,000 seals around Argentina. In late August, seals in Seattle's Puget Sound tested positive for the disease. 

"This avian influenza outbreak has been one of the largest threats to wildlife globally," Chris Walzer of the Wildlife Conservation Society told the news outlet. "We just can't wait for it to hit  human populations. We need to be working upstream to look at what's happening in these wildlife populations." 

Last summer, three global health agencies issued a warning about the rising number of H5N1 infections among mammals and urged countries to take more action to improve disease surveillance and hygiene practices at poultry farms. 

Since December 2021, there have been 11 reported cases among humans globally, according to the CDC. Those cases are most likely linked to close contact with infected birds. In human cases, the disease carries a high mortality rate. 

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