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We are underestimating, again, the true burden of H5N1 in humans
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  • Published on:
    A(H5N1) avian influenza: Another pandemic on the horizon?
    • Giovanni Di Guardo, DVM, Dipl. ECVP, Former Professor of General Pathology and Veterinary Pathophysiology University of Teramo, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Località Piano d'Accio, 64100 Teramo, Italy
    • Other Contributors:
      • Sante Roperto, DVM, PhD, Professor of Infectious Diseases, Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Productions,

    Over the past two years, around 100 Countries worldwide have reported outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A(H5N1) viral disease. Alongside the recent detection of such pathogen in USA cattle, the finding of the viral agent in bovine raw milk samples, coupled with the identification of viral gene fragments in pasteurized cattle milk (which does not aiutonatically imply, however, the virus is still alive), are of additional concern. The ongoing viral spread and host range expansion to several phylogenetically distant species are also worrysome. Indeed, recently affected animals include domestic as well as wild avian (1) and mammalian species, both terrestrial and aquatic, such as cats, dogs, cattle, sheep, goats, black bears, red foxes, bobcats, badgers, seals, sea lions, harbor porpoises, bottlenose dolphins (2-5), and even the highly endangered polar bear (Ursus maritimus).
    Within this rapidly evolving scenario, the prominent neurotropism and neuropathogenicity exhibited by A(H5N1) influenza virus in several bird and mammalian hosts (1-5) represent a further issue of concern.
    Following the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, the more a virus circulates among animals, the more it can develop genetic mutations accelerating its progressive adaptation and spillover into new species.
    How worried should we then be?
    Over the past twenty years, approximately 900 human cases of HPAI A(H5N1) viral disease have been reported - includi...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.