Home Health WHO warning over 'next pandemic' that could cause 'extremely high' death rates

WHO warning over 'next pandemic' that could cause 'extremely high' death rates


The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned the UK could see another pandemic amid the increasing spread of a potentially deadly illness.

The WHO has warned the rise of bird flu is an “enormous concern” with 463 deaths recorded from 889 human cases between 2003 and 2023, saying a large outbreak could lead to “extraordinarily high” death rates.

Bird flu’s extremely deadly H5N1 subtype has caused devastating declines in bird populations following its emergence in Europe in 2020 and has recently jumped to cows, cats, seals and now people.

As a result this has raised the risk of the virus becoming more transmissible among humans.

There is currently no evidence of human-to-human transmission but experts are now warning that if this changes, the resulting pandemic would be more dangerous than Covid.

Experts at the WHO say a bird flu pandemic among humans would see about half of those infected killed by the illness.

Jeremy Farrar, the UN health agency’s chief scientist, told MailOnline: “This remains I think an enormous concern.

“The great concern of course is that in… infecting ducks and chickens and then increasingly mammals, that virus now evolves and develops the ability to infect humans and then critically the ability to go from human to human.

“When you come into the mammalian population, then you’re getting closer to humans… this virus is just looking for new, novel hosts.

“It’s a real concern.”

He described bird flu as as “a global zoonotic animal pandemic” with scientists most concerned that it is spreading between different animals despite there being no evidence so far that it is spreading between humans.

Mr Farrar added that greater monitoring is needed to understand how human infections are happening, “because that’s where adaptation will happen”.

He told the MailOnline: “It’s a tragic thing to say, but if I get infected with H5N1 and I die, that’s the end of it. If I go around the community and I spread it to somebody else then you start the cycle.”

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