Fox dies from bird flu: Can bird flu virus be transmitted to humans?

1. What is bird flu?

Bird flu is a disease caused by the bird flu virus. this influenza virus, similar to the influenza virus in humans. As the name implies: it is particularly contagious to birds.

“New avian influenza viruses appear every year,” says Muriel Verwijk of the Nature and Forestry Agency. “We always have to wait and see what mutations will emerge, you never know in advance.”

Occasionally, mutants appear that are highly contagious and highly lethal to birds. An example is H5N1 . subtypewhich are currently distributed worldwide by migratory birds.

The bird flu virus mainly affects birds.

2. Which subspecies is currently circulating in Belgium?

The H5N1 subtype made its debut in Belgium at the end of last year. “We first found them in swans, ducks and birds of prey,” says Muriel Verwijk of the Nature and Forestry Agency. “It’s now wreaking havoc on shorebirds, especially gulls.”

Sometimes the virus can be transmitted from birds to mammals. Some predators can get sick after eating infected birds.

There was already an infection in seals and foxes

Muriel Verwijk, Nature and Forestry Agency

“There have already been infestations of seals and foxes in neighboring countries,” Verwijk says. “This is why the Agency for Nature and Forestry is also investigating dead foxes in our place. For example, the virus has already been found in two foxes: one in Knokke-Heist and one in Kortenberg. In both cases, H5N1 virus has been found in the animal’s brains.” .”

However, H5N1 does not appear to be spreading among foxes at this time. A fox can get sick after eating a sick bird, but it cannot infect other foxes later.

The bird flu virus does not appear to spread among foxes.


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3. Can the bird flu virus infect humans as well?

“The bird flu virus that’s circulating now is not directly dangerous to humans,” says Muriel Verwijk. “The H5N1 subtype is not currently a public health threat. The chance of you getting infected is very small.”

The virus is sometimes transmitted from birds to humans. This occurs only after close contact with infected and dead animals or with the droppings of infected animals. In the case of human infection, there is also sometimes an association with a poultry farm.

“This is certainly no coincidence,” Vervaeke says. “In poultry farms, many birds live together in a limited area and there is direct contact with humans. Then there is always a greater risk of there being breeding grounds for pathogens. This can lead to new mutations that could be dangerous.”

If the virus jumps to humans, there is often an association with a poultry farm.

4. Could the bird flu virus cause another pandemic?

Just because H5N1 is harmless to humans, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t worry. New mutations will surely appear in the future. No one can predict the effect that will occur on human health.

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Vervaeke says. “So I don’t know which mutations will appear and if they could cause a new pandemic. Epidemiologists agree that avian influenza viruses may also become dangerous to humans in the future.”

“We definitely have to be vigilant,” emphasizes Mieke Steensels of Sciensano. “This is especially true for people who can come into contact with infected birds. We must also continue to closely monitor the strains that we find in Belgium in foxes. This way we can quickly detect new mutations.”

The avian influenza virus is currently considered particularly dangerous to birds, but this may change in the future.

5. What if you find a dead or sick animal?

If you find a dead or sick fox or bird, don’t worry. As long as you do not touch the animal, there is no danger.

“This is an important message,” Verwijk says. “Sick and dead animals, stay away from them. If they must be touched, use disposable gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.”

if I were dead bird Call the influenza line (toll-free): 0800 99 777. The body goes to the laboratory, where it is checked for H5N1.

if I were sick bird If so, contact wildlife refuge centers in your county. also for a Dead or sick fox Can you go there.

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