The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the world to prepare for a potential bird flu pandemic. The warning comes after the strain of H5N1 avian influenza jumped from birds to humans, with cases reported in multiple countries.
Avian influenza, also known as bird flu, is a virus that primarily affects birds. It can be transmitted from birds to humans through contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces. In some cases, it can cause serious illness and even death in humans.
The WHO has been monitoring the situation closely since 2003, when an outbreak of A(H5N1) virus was first reported in poultry in Hong Kong SAR, China. Since then, cases have been reported in many other countries around the world.
According to WHO officials, the spillover of bird flu to mammals must be monitored closely and “we need to be ready to face outbreaks in humans”. Symptoms of avian influenza include fever, cough and difficulty breathing and can range from mild to severe depending on the strain of virus involved.
In order to prepare for a potential pandemic, the WHO recommends several steps including strengthening surveillance systems for early detection of new cases; improving laboratory capacity for rapid diagnosis; increasing public awareness about prevention measures; and developing effective vaccines and treatments.
The WHO also advises people who work with poultry or live near areas where there are large numbers of birds to take extra precautions such as wearing protective clothing and washing their hands regularly with soap and water after handling birds or their droppings.