Person With Bird Flu Strain A(H5N2) Dies in Mexico

A person infected with the avian influenza A(H5N2) virus died in Mexico, according to the World Health Organization.

This is the first laboratory-confirmed human case of infection with an influenza A(H5N2) virus reported globally. It is also the first human infection of the avian H5 virus reported in Mexico.

On April 17, the 59-year-old patient developed fever, shortness of breath, diarrhea, nausea and general malaise. A week later, the patient sought medical help and was hospitalized in Mexico City. He died the same day due to complications of his condition.

The patient had chronic kidney disease and type 2 diabetes and had been already bedridden for three weeks for other reasons before developing acute symptoms, according to his relatives.

The patient had no history of exposure to poultry or other animals. However, in March 2024, two outbreaks of A(H5N2) in poultry were detected in the State of Mexico, where the patient was residing, and the bordering state of Michoacán.

Health officials say it has not been possible to establish whether this human case is related to the recent poultry outbreaks.

The WHO says the current risk to the general population posed by this virus is low.

No further cases were reported during the epidemiological investigation, including among the patient's close contacts in the hospital.

The circulation of avian influenza viruses in poultry increases the risk of human infection due to exposure to infected poultry or contaminated environments.

Rick Bright, a virologist and former director of the Department of Health and Human Services' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, called the news concerning, as it took six weeks to identify and report the case.

Another source of concern is that the patient was bedridden, indicating someone brought the virus to him, had no contact with poultry, and the outcome was fatal, Bright wrote on X.

Only about 900 human avian flu cases were reported globally in the last two decades. However, the virus may be deadly, with a mortality rate of 56%, according to the WHO data.

The virus is not new to Mexico

Although this is the first laboratory-confirmed human case of A(H5N2), it may not be the first time people have contracted the virus. In 2006, Japan reported 77 possible infections with H5N2, mostly in people working on poultry farms who did not take proper precautions when handling sick birds.

The low-pathogenicity H5N2 virus has caused outbreaks in poultry in Mexico since 1993. During 1994 to 1995, it mutated into a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) H5N2. A vaccination program against H5N2 in poultry, established in 1994, eradicated HPAIV H5N2 in Mexico by 1995.

The outbreak in the U.S. continues

Since 2022, three people in the United States have contracted the A(H5N1) virus, the subtype of H5, amid the ongoing multistate outbreak in dairy cows.

All patients were dairy farm workers. Two of them experienced conjunctivitis and fatigue as their only symptoms. The third patient had symptoms more typical of respiratory infections, such as cough without fever, congestion, sore throat, and watery eyes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the risk to members of the general public who do not have exposure to infected animals remains low in the U.S.

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