WHO finds Australia’s first bird flu case likely came from India

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that the first human case of bird flu infection in Australia probably originated in India.

The WHO warned health authorities in Australia that A suspected case of avian influenza virus A (H5N1) was detected in Melbourne, which was later confirmed by the Victorian Department of Health.

A WHO investigation found that a two-and-a-half-year-old girl who travelled to Kolkata, India between February 12 and 29 and returned to Melbourne on March 1 was likely infected with the disease before returning to Australia.

The child was admitted to a hospital in Melbourne on March 2. In the following days her condition worsened and she was transferred to the intensive care unit, where she remained for a week.

The child was discharged from the hospital 2.5 weeks later and is now clinically healthy.

Victoria’s Department of Health reported that on February 25, the child began feeling unwell, losing his appetite, being irritable and having a fever.

On February 29, her family took her to a doctor in India when she developed fever, cough and vomiting and was given paracetamol.

The family stated that they did not leave Calcutta during their stay in India and did not have any contact with known sick people or animals there.

Tests were performed during the child’s hospitalization. The test for influenza A was positive and the child was sent to WHO for further characterization.

The WHO confirmed that the knowledge of the relevant health authorities was insufficient to link the case to the H5N1 virus.

The virus circulates in Southeast Asia and has been detected in previous infections in humans and poultry.

The Department of Health is supporting Agriculture Victoria in its response to an outbreak of avian influenza on a poultry farm in regional Victoria.

Victorian Health Department Chief Health Officer Clare Looker said testing had confirmed this outbreak was not linked to this human case and that contact tracing had not identified any further cases of avian influenza.

“This is the first confirmed case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Australia and the first time the H5N1 strain has been detected in a human or animal in Australia,” she said.

“The seasonal flu vaccine does not protect against bird flu.

However, this can prevent highly pathogenic bird flu from mixing with seasonal flu, as this can lead to the emergence of new mutated viruses that could spread rapidly.

“This underscores the importance of seasonal influenza vaccination, particularly for poultry workers and people travelling to areas with disease outbreaks, to reduce the risk of new pandemic viruses emerging in humans.”

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