The World Health Organization has warned that the spread of bird flu must be closely monitored. While the risk to humans remains low, the WHO believes “we must prepare” for it.
H5N1 – commonly known as bird flu – has spread among poultry and wild birds for 25 years, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in a virtual briefing, but the recent reports of infections in mink, otters and sea lions “need to be monitored closely”.
He stated that the risk to humans was still low, noting that human cases have been rare since the flu strain first appeared in 1996.
“We cannot assume that will remain the case and we must prepare for any change in the status quo,” Tedros said.
He advised people not to touch dead or sick wild animals and instead to report them to local and national authorities who were monitoring the situation.
The WHO also recommended strengthening surveillance in settings where humans and animals interact.
“WHO is also continuing to engage with manufacturers to make sure that, if needed, supplies of vaccines and antivirals would be available for global use,” he said.