Bird flu has been detected in at least one fox near Paris, the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) reports. According to the organization, three dead foxes were found in a nature reserve in Meaux, one of which was examined. It turned out to carry the so-called H5N1 virus, the bird flu variant that is very sickening among birds.
Cases of mammals becoming infected with the disease have been reported in several countries. In December, for example, a cat in France became infected, in Spain the variant was found in minks and in the US three grizzly bears contracted bird flu.
In England, the disease has been diagnosed in foxes, otters and seals in recent months. Mammals also became infected in the Netherlands. In January, bird flu of the type H5N1 was diagnosed in a fox found in North Brabant, and a polecat, a badger and an otter were previously infected in the Netherlands.
Also in humans
Most likely, the animals got sick because they ate sick birds. In most cases there is no question of the mammals infecting each other. The virus variant can also occur in humans, but this has not yet happened on a large scale. According to most virologists, the chance that this will happen is small. But virologists Marion Koopmans and Thijs Kuiken, among others, do think that we should prepare better for an outbreak.
The virus only becomes a pandemic among humans if another animal can contract a human variant of the flu as well as H5N1, German virologist Thomas Mettenleiter said earlier. He spent years researching bird flu for the EU. “This could result in a new virus with genetic material from both viruses.” However, like most other virologists, he emphasizes that the chance is not great.
WHO: situation is alarming
Still, the World Health Organization WHO calls the situation worrying. “The global H5N1 situation is alarming because the virus is widespread in birds around the world and appears to be becoming more common in mammals and humans,” said WHO’s Sylvie Briand late last month.
H5N1 is highly contagious among birds. Since 5 October, a nationwide confinement obligation has been in effect for poultry farms in the Netherlands. In practice, it means that there are no more free-range eggs, because the animals are no longer allowed to go outside.
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