Get bird flu jabs ready now before virus jumps to humans, warns top scientist

SCIENTISTS are urging government to develop new bird flu vaccine before virus spreads to humans.

It comes as experts fear the bug could mutate, making it even more harmful to humans than it currently is.

There is currently no preventive vaccine against bird flu


There is currently no preventive vaccine against bird fluPhoto credit: Getty

And now a world-leading scientist from the WHO, Sir Jeremy Farrar, who was previously director of the Wellcome Trust, has said that the avian H5N1 virus poses the greatest post-Covid pandemic threat to the world.

Fears have been raised in recent weeks over the “unprecedented” current outbreak, which has infected a multitude of mammals – including otters and foxes – since October last year.

There is currently no preventive vaccine against the virus.

“If there were a human outbreak of H5N1 tomorrow in Europe, the Middle East, America or Mexico, we would not be able to vaccinate the world in 2023,” Sir Jeremy, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist-designate, said at a news conference in London.

He is now urging governments to invest in testing all available influenza vaccines against the H5N1 strain.

“If there was an H5N1 outbreak [in humans] at least we knew we had vaccines available that were safe and effective.

“And if it doesn’t happen, you haven’t lost because you still have her [vaccines],” he said.

Professor Diana Bell, a zoonotic disease expert from the University of East Anglia, echoed Sir Jeremy’s comments calling for research into a new vaccine.

“We have to be proactive and not be caught on the back foot again,” she told The Sun.

“Most of the human deaths from this virus occurred in the early 2000s – and there have been a few human cases recently.

“But obviously with so many viruses, that could change very quickly,” she added.

She also called for “greater biosecurity in poultry farming” that could help prevent further transmission from mammals to humans.

The World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) previously warned that mammals could act as “mixing vessels” for different viruses, which could lead to a new variant said to be “more harmful” to humans.

While avian flu typically affects poultry and wild birds, it can be transmitted to mammals, including humans.

The H5N1 strain already has a mortality rate of around 50 percent in humans.

Only 870 people have contracted bird flu in the past 20 years – and 457 of them have died.

Avian flu has so far been diagnosed in just one person in the UK when Alan Gosling, 79, a retired engineer in Devon, caught it from ducks at his home in December 2021.

Another expert previously told The Sun he was concerned the virus could combine with another virus to make it more dangerous.

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Professor James Wood, of the University of Cambridge Veterinary Medicine, said: “Despite what appears to be innate human resistance to the current strain of the virus, widespread exposure raises the possibility that the avian virus will recombine with a human influenza virus, one that can be transmitted to humans .

“However, despite the unprecedented scale of exposure, this has not yet happened.”

What are the symptoms of bird flu in humans?

The main symptoms of bird flu can appear very quickly and include:

  • a very high temperature or feeling hot or chills
  • Muscle cramp
  • Headache
  • cough or shortness of breath

Other early symptoms can include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Illness
  • stomach pain
  • chest pain
  • bleeding from the nose and gums
  • conjunctivitis

Source: The NHS Get bird flu jabs ready now before virus jumps to humans, warns top scientist

Emma James

Emma James is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma James joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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