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Former CDC director warns ‘it’s just a matter of time’ before bird flu pandemic

Posted: Sunday, June 16, 2024. 1:02 pm CST.

By Horace Palacio: The former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Robert Redfield, has issued a warning about the potential for a future pandemic originating from bird flu. This warning follows a recent announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) reporting the first human death from bird flu in Mexico, with the virus also detected in cattle across the United States, according to The Independent.

Redfield highlighted the significant threat posed by bird flu, stating, “I really do think it’s very likely that we will, at some time – it’s not a question of if, it’s more of a question of when – we will have a bird flu pandemic.” He emphasized the potential severity, suggesting a mortality rate between 25 and 50 percent, far higher than Covid-19’s 0.6 percent.

Recent developments have heightened concerns. In late May, the CDC identified a third human case of bird flu since March among farmworkers, presenting symptoms such as cough and pink eye. Although these cases were unrelated, there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

Researchers have identified five amino acids that need to change for the bird flu virus to bind to human receptors, which could enable it to spread between humans. “Once the virus gains the ability to attach to the human receptor and then go human to human, that’s when you’re going to have the pandemic,” Redfield warned, adding, “I think it’s just a matter of time.”

The implications for Belize, with its significant agricultural sector, are substantial. The virus has been detected in over 40 cattle herds in the US, and the CDC is monitoring wastewater treatment sites to track its spread. While the current public risk is low, Redfield’s comments underscore the need for vigilance. He also voiced concerns about the virus being engineered in a lab, referencing past controversial experiments that demonstrated how to make bird flu highly infectious to humans.

 

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