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Bird flu: Health officials draw up COVID-style model looking at pandemic possibilities

The plans to boost the UK’s preparedness for a bird flu pandemic come after an 11-year-old girl died from the virus in Cambodia. The WHO warns that even if the world is more prepared than for COVID, “we are not yet prepared enough”.

A COVID-style plan for dealing with bird flu is being drawn up by health officials, modelling what would happen if the virus starts spreading between humans.

At least 11 other people in the country have also been tested.

There has been some evidence of people catching the virus from family members or in healthcare setting, the UKHSA said, but no or little evidence of “sustained” transmission between humans.

The UKHSA is modelling what happens if that changes, looking at two scenarios: a mild scenario where the infection-fatality rate is similar to COVID, at about 0.25%, and a more severe scenario similar to the 1918 flu pandemic, where about 2.5% of people who caught the virus died.

That would mean under the mild scenario, one in 400 people with the virus would die, and under the severe scenario one in 40 infected people would die.

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Even with a fairly low infection-fatality rate, a severe scenario could lead to “significant behavioural differences relative to the recent pandemic experience”, the UKHSA said.

In light of the modelling, the UKHSA is looking at how it could detect outbreaks in humans, including using COVID-style lateral flow tests.

It is also developing a blood test that detects antibodies against the virus and analysis of the genetic mutations that would signal an increased risk to human health.

The world’s leading experts on influenza will meet on Friday to discuss the threat of bird flu to humans.

The group of scientists, regulators and vaccine manufacturers meets twice a year to decide which strain of seasonal flu to include in the vaccine for the upcoming winter season.

This meeting will also address the risk of the virus spilling over to humans and causing a pandemic.

“We are more prepared (than for COVID), but even if we are more prepared, we are not yet prepared enough,” Sylvie Briand, WHO director of global infectious hazard preparedness, said ahead of the meeting.

“We need to really continue the efforts for a flu pandemic.”

Category: Technology

Source: Sky Technology

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