US Scientists Alert: Mutated Avian Flu in Cattle Could Infect Humans

Written by Kathrine Frich

Jul.09 - 2024 8:52 AM CET

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock
The H5N1 virus has mutated and begun to infect cattle in 12 states.

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Scientists are raising alarms about the avian flu, specifically the H5N1 virus, which has now spread to cattle on over 100 farms in the United States. According to Ziare there is a potential risk that this virus could infect humans through respiration due to its recent mutations.

Four Contracted the Virus

The H5N1 virus, which typically affects birds, has mutated and begun to infect cattle in 12 states. Alarmingly, inactive fragments of the virus have been detected in pasteurized milk found on supermarket shelves.

So far, four individuals who work with these animals have contracted the virus, though their symptoms have been mild, and there has been no subsequent human-to-human transmission.

Respiratory Transmission

A detailed study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison revealed that the strain of H5N1 found in cattle can attach to receptors in the human respiratory tract, a characteristic not previously observed in the avian version of the virus.

While tests on ferrets suggest that the virus may not easily spread through respiratory means, there is still significant concern within the scientific community.

Dr. Ed Hutchinson from the University of Glasgow emphasized the urgency of the situation, stating that the H5N1 flu virus is beginning to acquire properties that could enable efficient respiratory transmission among humans.

This development would make the virus significantly harder to control and much more dangerous if it were to spread among people.

Government Response and Future Steps

In response to this emerging threat, the U.S. government has recently allocated £139 million to Moderna, the manufacturer of a COVID-19 vaccine, to develop a vaccine specifically targeting the H5N1 virus.

These efforts underscore the importance of monitoring the situation closely and taking swift action to contain the outbreak and prevent a potential public health crisis.