Saturday, April 1

Large bird flu epidemics, like the COVID-19 pandemic, indicate the rising danger of crossover, or diseases spreading from animals to people, according to this expert.

Bird Flu
Bird Flu[image source:CNA]

In the United States, nearly 58 million birds have died as a result of the current avian influenza epidemic as of February. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, significant virus outbreaks like the avian flu heighten the possibility of another illness spreading from animals to people. Spillover refers to this procedure.


It makes sense that people are concerned about spread as the bird flu outbreak from this year continues to spread.

It’s critical to comprehend how and why spillover happens as well as what can be done to prevent it, given that the next potential pandemic will probably start in animals.

How Spillover Functions

When a pathogen, such as a virus, parasite, or bacteria, that causes disease leaps into people, it is said to be spilling over. The pathogen may be something that has never been detected in humans before, such as a novel Ebola virus transmitted by bats, or it may be well documented and recurrent, such as Salmonella from farm animals.

The phrase spillover conjures up pictures of a container of liquid overflowing, and this picture serves as an excellent metaphor for how the process operates.

Think about filling a cup with water. The water will eventually spill over the rim if the water level rises, which could cause anything underneath to be splashed. In a viral spillover simulation, people are in the splash zone and the cup symbolizes an animal population. The water represents a zoonotic disease that can transmit from an animal to a person.

The incidence of a spillover depends on a variety of biological and social variables, such as the frequency and severity of animal illnesses, the environmental pressure on the disease to advance, and the volume of intimate contact between diseased animals and people.

Importance of Spillover

Up to three-quarters of all new infectious diseases in humans have animal origins, albeit not all animal viruses or other pathogens can spread to humans. Spillover is likely to be the source of the next major pandemic risk, and the more spillovers are understood, the more chance there is of averting them.

Today, the preponderance of spillover research is geared towards identifying and preventing viruses, such as coronaviruses like the one that causes COVID-19 and specific viral lineages of avian influenza, from infecting people. Because of the rapid mutation rates of these viruses and the potential for chance genetic code modifications to enable human infection.

Bird Flu Risk Currently

The original H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus, which previously caused human epidemics, is a distant ancestor of the new avian influenza virus. Health authorities are detecting reports of this new flu virus spreading from birds to other species, including foxes, skunks, and bears.

On February 23, news organizations started releasing reports of a few confirmed illnesses among Cambodian residents, one of which resulted in an 11-year-old girl’s death.

The fact that this new strain of bird flu cannot connect to human respiratory tract cells very effectively means that it only occasionally infects humans. For the time being, as per the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is little risk to the general public.

Health experts will be able to identify the first indication of spillover by actively monitoring wild animals, domesticated animals, and people, which will help them stop a little viral splash from growing into a significant outbreak.

Moving forward, scientists and decision-makers can take action to stop spillover events by protecting nature, keeping wildlife wild and apart from cattle, and enhancing the early detection of emerging illnesses in people and animals.


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