Dozens of cats across Poland have died from the bird flu virus, raising the alarm of the World Health Organization (WHO). It issued a statement asking national health authorities to pay special attention to the possible new H5N1 outbreak in mammals, and has launched a detailed and specific investigation to clarify the source of this strange, atypical and worrisome infection. disease in this European country.
The head of the World Health Organization asks the authorities and health professionals for prevention, prevention and investigation, but at the same time they ask not to spread a sense of panic among the population, which is somewhat irrational today.
They said, yes, because what happened in Poland for more than a month, there is still no specific scientific explanation, so be diligent, but also be cautious, because experts believe that these cats or other mammals transmit the H5N1 virus to humans. The odds are low. .
This is borne out by the epidemiological statistics – since 2020 only a dozen avian influenza infections have been detected in humans, four of which were severe – and it is also confirmed by the Polish cases themselves, none of which The owner of the infected cat tested positive for the virus despite being contained by health officials. In almost all cases, the surveillance period ended without any symptoms of infection.
After a month of investigation, experts still don’t know the source or source of the escalation of infections
However, the World Health Organization itself raised the risk of contagion from low to low and moderate when talking about people in close contact with sick animals or professionals such as veterinarians. He advised everyone to take basic safety measures when they must come into contact with sick animals, such as using personal protective equipment (PPE), masks and gloves.
Authorities in Poland have reported the deaths of more than 60 cats across the country since last June, including natural deaths and euthanasia of symptomatic animals. There is official evidence that H5N1 virus was present in more than half of cat deaths.
The two-year outbreak of bird flu in large areas of Europe and North and South America has caused the death of tens of thousands of wild birds, marine mammals, mink, dogs and other animal species, but so far, the fatality rate remains high. Infections are highly concentrated in specific natural areas, hatcheries or farms or livestock operations. The vast majority of the thousands of cases detected since 2021 belong to the 18.104.22.168b variant of the virus, which was also isolated in Polish cats.
The current incident is a special case because of the large number of infections, the geographical dispersion of the infected sites (at least thirteen districts were notified), and the variety of documented situations, including stray cats and domestic cats, As well as stray and domestic cats. Animals have great freedom of movement, but some are locked in their homes. This is the world’s first case of bird flu with these features found in a mammal.
After more than a month of investigation, the source or origin of the outbreak and its transmission mechanism are still unknown. The World Health Organization has addressed three possibilities that do not rule out other possibilities, but none of them have been confirmed yet. Cats have been in contact with sick or dead wild birds, ingested infected birds, or virus-contaminated animal feed. The latter is the main assumption pointed out by some experts.
Experts and officials from the UN health agency used the alert to underscore the relevance and urgency for researchers and health authorities to develop an experimental vaccine against the virus as soon as possible.
After the coronavirus crisis, which probably started with animal-to-human transmission, they felt the need to prepare for the possibility that H5N1 might at some point mutate and be able to infect and harm humans. The reason is clear. Infections in humans are rare today, but the disease can be very serious and even fatal.