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Posted: 7th June 2024

Man dies after first human case of H5N2 avian flu
The virus has been detected in poultry in Mexico.
The cause of the case in Mexico is not currently known.

A 59-year-old man in Mexico has died after becoming the first known human to contract the H5N2 strain of avian influenza.

The individual, who had multiple underlying health conditions, was hospitalised in Mexico City on 24 April after developing symptoms including fever, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, and nausea. He passed away the same day.

A respiratory sample, sent away for testing, was found to be positive for the H5N2 strain. The World Health Organization (WHO) was notified.

Although the H5N2 strain has been detected in poultry in Mexico, the source of the individual’s exposure is not currently known.

Contacts of the patient were identified and monitored, but none of them tested positive for the virus. WHO has assessed the current risk to the general human population as low.

The case comes at a time when a different strain of avian influenza, H5N1, has caused two human cases in the USA linked to an ongoing outbreak among dairy cattle. Both patients experienced mild eye symptoms.

Ian Jones, professor of virology at the University of Reading, said: “It is impossible to generalise from a single case. However, as H5N2 is present in Mexico and the infected individual had underlying medical conditions, which may have contributed to the outcome, it would be reasonable to suppose this is a one-off case of zoonotic transfer with no potential to spread.

“This would be consistent with previous examples of occasional avian influenza infections in people. Unless or until there is evidence of strain adaptation or sustained transmission, the risk to the population is very low.

“The case should act to reinforce the importance of monitoring and eradicating outbreaks in poultry as soon as they occur.”

Image © Shutterstock

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