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First H5N2 bird flu death reported

The Mexican victim suffered from fever and diarrhea before succumbing to the virus, the World Health Organization said

A man has died in Mexico with a new strain of avian flu never detected in humans before, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced Wednesday. Multiple strains of the virus are currently circulating in Europe and North America.

The 59-year-old male victim caught the H5N2 virus in April while he was already bedridden with “multiple underlying medical conditions,” the organization said in a statement. He quickly developed “fever, shortness of breath, diarrhea, nausea and general malaise,” passing away seven days after these symptoms showed.

Other strains of avian flu – including H5N1, H5N6, and H5N8 – occasionally infect humans, with those who work in the poultry industry at particular risk. However, no human cases of H5N2 have ever been detected before.

According to the WHO, there were three outbreaks of H5N2 at Mexican poultry farms in March and April. However, the agency noted that the deceased did not have any contact with any animals before he fell ill, and could not link the case with any of the recent outbreaks.

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Ten US states have reported H5N1 infections since late March, with the virus infecting at least three people and spreading to cattle herds in nine states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Since late last year, outbreaks have also been reported at poultry farms in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, and several other countries. 

A total of 888 human cases of H5N1 have been reported worldwide since 2003, 463 of which have been fatal, according to WHO data.

No further human cases of H5N2 have been detected in Mexico, and the WHO stated that “the current likelihood of sustained human-to-human spread is low.”

“Based on the available information, WHO assesses the current risk to the general population posed by this virus to be low,” the organization concluded. 


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