Avian influenza: – A new strain that causes a stir:

Avian influenza: – A new strain that causes a stir:

My colleagues and I closely monitor different viruses, always wondering what could lead to the next pandemic. We are concerned that a new strain of H5N1 avian influenza virus could evolve over the long term and lead to a new influenza pandemic in humans in the future.

This is what epidemiologist Lon Simonsen from Roskilde University tells Dagbladet.

She is one of Denmark's leading epidemiologists and head of the PandemiX Center at Roskilde University.

Shocked by Norway

A new type of bird flu, which has spread among birds in recent years, is now beginning to spread among mammals around the world. This makes the researcher pay more attention.

The new variant has led to the death of large numbers of seals in Peru, and its spread and death among wild animals and on mink farms and fox farms in Europe in 2022 and 2023, respectively.

Mass die-off: More than 500 seals and more than 55,000 wild birds died from bird flu in Peru in 2023. Photo: SERNANP / AFP / NTB

Mass die-off: More than 500 seals and more than 55,000 wild birds died from bird flu in Peru in 2023. Photo: SERNANP / AFP / NTB
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It acquires more properties

The new situation, with mammals also being infected, makes me worry about whether the virus is acquiring more new properties, which in turn could lead to it actively infecting people, says Simonsen.

Last week, the US Health Authority (CDC) sounded the alarm after a person was infected with the H5N1 strain.

COVID-19 removed from list: - Anniversary

COVID-19 removed from list: – Anniversary

The epidemiologist explains that the concern stems from the fact that the virus is in a “training camp” when it spreads among mammals on fur farms and on farms. The virus thus learns how to evade the mammalian immune system.

She explained that the widespread infection among mammals means that the mutant strain can be “trained” to allow itself to more effectively infect humans.

It can be fatal

The virus is potentially deadly to humans, just like the previous strain of H5N1, says the researcher.

She refers to the time when the Spanish Flu – which was an influenza epidemic – killed millions of people during World War I. The Spanish flu was caused by an avian influenza virus.

door: After several different birds died in Holmstrand, bird flu was suspected. Video: Private. Reporter: Elias K. Zahil Petersen
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– But whether it will be the same pattern for the future version of the new variant, we don't know yet. Only a few people have been infected with this variant so far, she says:

– The variant of the virus that we see now does not cause concern for humans, but what it could evolve into is what raises concern.

Warning: - The virus can evolve

Warning: – The virus can evolve

The next epidemic

Lone Simonsen says that some countries, such as the United States of America, have already prepared to face a possible pandemic with the H5N1 virus, and that there is a vaccine against this virus for use in humans. But it is unclear whether it is equally effective against the new strain of H5N1 virus.

How many doses countries can obtain, and how quickly they can begin vaccination, are questions that cannot yet be answered. Simonsen thinks it might be helpful to prepare for a pandemic scenario, even if it never happens.

One might think that the world has learned to prepare after the Corona pandemic. This means preparing with testing capacity, protective equipment, and vaccines for the next pandemic. It is also important to think about “One Health”, which means that veterinarians and health authorities work closely together to detect and understand the threat.

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