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Patient in Mexico Infected With First Human Case of H5N2 Bird Flu Confirmed Dead

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The world’s first human infection with the H5N2 strain of avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, has tragically claimed a life in Mexico. The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed the unprecedented case, which proved fatal for a 59-year-old Mexican resident with underlying health conditions.

According to the WHO’s statement, the patient first developed symptoms like fever, shortness of breath, diarrhea, and nausea on April 17th. Their condition deteriorated rapidly, and they were hospitalized on April 24th at the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases in Mexico City. Sadly, the patient died later that same day.

Subsequent laboratory testing identified the culprit as the H5N2 subtype of avian influenza virus – a strain that has never before been detected in humans globally. Mexican health authorities revealed the deceased had chronic illnesses including kidney disease, diabetes, and hypertension which likely made them more vulnerable.

What makes this case particularly perplexing is that the patient had no documented exposure to live poultry or other birds prior to falling ill, which is how most bird flu cases originate. Health investigators have so far been unable to trace the source of infection, despite H5N2 viruses circulating in some Mexican poultry farms.

In the aftermath, a thorough contact tracing and testing effort was launched. Among the patient’s close contacts at the hospital and home, only one person reported mild respiratory symptoms. However, tests came back negative for influenza and COVID-19 across all identified contacts.

While confirming this was an isolated case so far, the WHO acknowledged that any human infection with an influenza virus originating from animals raises public health concerns. The agency urged heightened surveillance and monitoring, as animal-derived flu strains can potentially mutate and spread person-to-person.

Reassuringly, both the WHO and Mexican health officials have assessed the current risk from this H5N2 case as low for the general population. Global health authorities will no doubt be intensifying biological monitoring efforts to swiftly detect – and snuff out – any concerning mutations that could fuel future outbreaks.

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