The avian influenza virus that is circulating around the world also affects mammals. This is evident from the new figures published by the daily newspaper devotion has seen.
In the Netherlands, cats, badgers and foxes have been infected with the virus in the past year and a half. And according to Thijs Kuiken, a virologist at Erasmus Medical Centre, this is the tip of the iceberg.
Transmission of the avian influenza virus from poultry to mammals is of concern, as that means it can also infect humans. “In the long term, this could pose a danger to humans,” Kuiken explains on NPO Radio 1. A variant may develop in mammals to which humans are most susceptible.
It is difficult to control the avian influenza virus currently circulating due to the infection of large groups of wild birds around the world. “This virus originally started in the poultry industry, but it jumped to wild birds a few years ago,” Kuiken says. Mammals become infected by eating infected birds.
“People become infected not by eating infected animals, but by coming into contact with infected birds,” Kuiken says. He adds that this is less common in Europe than in China, for example, where chickens are sold live at the market and slaughtered on site. “In addition, pollution occurs.”
Koeken believes that the mammals now known to be infected with avian influenza are just the tip of the iceberg. “In any case, the figures show that a large number of mammals are susceptible and that infections occur regularly,” said Trouw’s virologist.
Poultry vaccination is a way to prevent the spread of disease. In Europe, preparations are underway to start doing this and this is already happening elsewhere. “So the chance of transmitting the virus to people is also less.”
An avian influenza vaccine for humans is not yet available.
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