WHO confirms 1st human death from new bird flu strain

MEXICO CITY – The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Wednesday that a resident of Mexico became the world’s first person to die from a bird flu strain not previously detected in humans.

The H5N2 strain of avian influenza has been recorded in birds worldwide, but no cases of human infection or deaths have been reported until now. The 59-year-old man, a resident of the State of Mexico in the central part of the country, had fallen ill in April.

According to WHO, the man had numerous underlying medical conditions and had been bedridden for three weeks before developing acute symptoms. On April 17, he reported fever, shortness of breath, diarrhea, nausea and general malaise.

On April 24, he sought medical attention and was promptly hospitalized at the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases (INER), dying the same day.

Following his death, health authorities at INER began testing samples collected from the deceased.

On May 8, the Laboratory of Molecular Biology of Emerging Diseases Center for Research in Infectious Diseases indicated that the sample was positive for influenza A(H5N2). By May 22, the Institute of Epidemiological Diagnosis and Reference confirmed the strain.

So far, health authorities do not know the origin of the contagion, since the man had no history of exposure to poultry or other animals.

The epidemiological investigation followed 17 contacts identified and monitored at the hospital where the patient died and 12 additional contacts identified near the patient's residence, with all testing negative for SARS-Cov-2 and influenza. Although no further cases of avian flu have been reported, the results of all serological samples are pending.

Multiple outbreaks of H5N2 have been reported in birds in Mexico, including an outbreak detected at a backyard poultry farm in the state of Michoacan, which borders the State of Mexico where the man was residing.

Additionally, two outbreaks of low pathogenicity avian influenza (LPAI) A(H5N2) were reported in two municipalities in the State of Mexico. However, it has not been possible to establish if this human case is related to the recent poultry outbreaks. (Anadolu)