Chile Detects Its First Case of Bird Flu in Humans

    Photo: Reuters

    The Facts

    • On Wednesday, Chile's health ministry announced that the Latin American nation has detected its first case of bird flu in a human.

    • A 53-year-old man had severe influenza symptoms and tested positive for the virus, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Health. The patient is in stable condition, however, the government is investigating both the source of the contagion and others who had been in contact with him.

    The Spin

    Narrative A

    The potential for a pandemic of H5N1 is a big worry, and scientists suggest we need to do more to prepare for a possible outbreak. If there was an outbreak in Europe or the US tomorrow, we wouldn't be able to vaccinate the world during 2023 based on the current production process. Current seasonal flu vaccines are not effective against bird flu, but it does appear that the antiviral drug Tamiflu is effective against it in people. It's time to begin responsibly planning for this contingency and ramping up vaccine production.

    Narrative B

    While H5N1 has been rampaging wild bird and domestic poultry populations worldwide, it's not time to worry about a human pandemic yet. Most likely the virus would need to make some evolutionary steps to achieve this — like spreading to intermediate host mammals and being able to sustain human-to-human transmission. It's prudent to be aware, but there's no cause for alarm yet.

    Nerd narrative

    There is a 2% risk that there will be at least 10,000 confirmed deaths due to H5N1 before 2024, according to the Metaculus prediction Community.

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