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WHO Confirms First Human Death from H5N2 Bird Flu in Mexico

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Bird Flu Mexico
Test tubes marked 'Bird Flu' [Source Dado Ruvic/ Reuters]

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported the first-ever human death caused by the H5N2 strain of avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu.

The victim is a 59-year-old man from Mexico City. He succumbed to the virus on April 24 after experiencing fever, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, nausea, and general discomfort.

This case marks the first laboratory-confirmed human infection with the A(H5N2) subtype globally. According to WHO, the man had no known history of exposure to poultry or other animals. However, he had multiple underlying medical conditions, including chronic kidney failure, diabetes, and high blood pressure. He had also been bedridden for three weeks before the onset of his acute symptoms.

Despite extensive testing of people who came into contact with the deceased, no further human cases have been identified.

“Based on available information, WHO assesses the current risk to the general population posed by this virus as low,” the organisation stated.

Similarly, Mexico’s Ministry of Health confirmed that “all samples from identified contacts [of the patient] have been negative” and emphasised that there is “no risk of contagion for the population.”

The H5N2 virus has been reported in poultry within Mexico, including outbreaks in backyard chicken farms in Michoacán and poultry farms in Texcoco and Temascalapa in Mexico. However, the exact source of the man’s exposure remains unknown.

WHO highlighted the importance of vigilance in monitoring such infections, as every spillover event represents a potential for the virus to adapt further to humans. Other strains of bird flu, like A(H5N1) and A(H5N6), have previously caused human fatalities in various parts of the world.

The Mexican health authorities have reportedly implemented a permanent monitoring system to detect any further cases in wildlife near the victim’s home and are closely monitoring farms in the vicinity.

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