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

The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that Australia’s first human infection with the avian influenza virus, or bird flu, likely came from India.

WHO warned the health authorities in Australia that a Suspected avian influenza A (H5N1) virus was detected in Melbourne, which was later confirmed by the Victorian Ministry of Health.

A WHO investigation found that a 2.5-year-old girl who traveled to Kolkata, India between February 12 and 29 and returned to Melbourne on March 1, may have contracted the disease before returning to Australia.

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

The child was discharged from the hospital 2.5 weeks later and is now reported to be clinically well.

Victoria’s Department of Health reported that on February 25, the child began to feel unwell, lost her appetite, was irritable and had a fever.

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

The family reported that they did not travel from Kolkata during their stay in India and were not exposed to any known sick people or animals while there.

Tests were performed on the child while she was in the hospital, which tested positive for influenza A and were sent to the WHO for further characterization.

The World Health Organization confirmed that referring health authorities did not have sufficient knowledge to link the case to the H5N1 virus.

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

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

Health Victoria’s chief medical officer Clare Looker said testing had confirmed that this outbreak was not linked to this human case and that contact tracing had not identified any further cases of bird flu.

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

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

However, it can help prevent highly pathogenic avian influenza from mixing with seasonal flu, which can lead to new mutated viruses that could spread rapidly.

“This highlights the importance of seasonal influenza vaccination, particularly for poultry workers and those traveling to outbreak areas, to reduce the risk of new pandemic viruses emerging in humans.”

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