After the sea lion outbreak, how does bird flu affect humans? « Mar del Plata capital newspaper

Following bird flu alert in city’s sea lions, How does this disease affect humans?

According to data from the Ministry of Health, The risk of disease transmission to humans is currently considered low. So far, people have not been infected by eating poultry meat and its by-products, so there is no risk from food ingestion.

Avian influenza (AI) is a viral disease that primarily attacks domestic and wild birds. It sometimes affects contacts and is caused by multiple subtypes (H5N1, H5N3, H5N8, etc.) with rapidly changing genetic characteristics.

People get infected with avian influenza primarily through direct contact with infected animals (live or dead) or their contaminated environment. The virus is transmitted to humans when the secretions or feces of infected birds are inhaled or when the virus enters the mouth, nose or eyes.

In turn, wild waterfowl are important reservoirs of influenza A virus, and poultry populations may become infected through contact with wild birds.

To date, no sustained human-to-human transmission of avian influenza A(H5N8), A(H5N2), or A(H5N1) viruses has been reported in the Americas or globally. During the 19-year period from 2003 to 2022, only 868 human cases were reported.

The National Department of Health recommends the following care:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid direct contact with wild birds and only observe them from a distance if possible.
  • Avoid unprotected contact with poultry that appears sick or dead.
  • For birds in large cities (sparrows, pigeons), the risk is considered very low, as these birds have not been shown to be very susceptible to the virus so far.
  • If sick or dead poultry is found, avoid contact and notify the health authorities of the State Service for Sanitation and Quality of Agri-Food Sanitation (SENASA).
  • Do not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with saliva, mucus or droppings from wild or domestic birds.
  • Currently, there are no restrictions on travel to areas affected by the disease. However, travelers to areas affected by avian influenza are advised to take necessary precautions to avoid the risk of infection.

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