Have you heard about what is going on in Cambodia?
If officials confirm that the H5N1 strain of the bird flu really is spreading from human to human there, it is likely to set off a wave of panic all over the globe. And if human to human transmission were to start happening in multiple countries, we would have a real nightmare on our hands. We just went through a pandemic that had a very low death rate, but it still paralyzed much of the world for an extended period of time. So how would global authorities react if a disease that has a death rate of more than 50 percent in humans starts spreading like wildfire?
According to the World Health Organization, more than 50 percent of the humans that have tested positive for H5N1 over the past two decades have died.
The good news is that it has been very difficult for humans to become infected. During the past 20 years, there have been less than a thousand confirmed cases.
So even though H5N1 has resulted in the deaths of about 200 million birds worldwide since December 2021, health authorities just kept assuring us that the risk to humans was low.
But now everything may be changing.
In recent weeks, we have seen H5N1 mutate and start to spread among various types of mammals, and that has deeply alarmed many experts. For example, the following comes from an article posted by Johns Hopkins University…
In particular, the jump from birds to mammals—including foxes, bears, mink, whales, and seals—is “significant and something to pay attention to,” says Davis, an associate professor in environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. “What people may not remember from high school biology is that there are larger differences between birds and mammals than there are among mammals, so finding the virus in mammals indicates an expanded host range.”
Earlier this month, I posted an article which discussed many of the mammal deaths that we have been seeing all over the planet.
In particular, the fact that H5N1 is spreading among minks is especially noteworthy, because minks have respiratory systems that are very similar to humans.
So that brings us to what is happening in Cambodia.
It is being reported that an 11-year-old girl has died after contracting H5N1…
Health officials in Prey Veng province have confirmed the death of an 11-year-old girl from H5N1, Cambodia’s first known human “bird flu” infection since 2014. Panharith Seng, director of the Prey Veng provincial health department, told VOA Khmer on Thursday that many chickens and ducks in the area where the girl lived had died of H5N1.
We are being told that she was first diagnosed on February 16th and that she died shortly thereafter…
She became ill on February 16 and was sent to be treated at a hospital in the capital She was diagnosed last-Wednesday after suffering a fever up to 39C (102F) with coughing and throat pain. She died shortly after her diagnosis, the Health Ministry said in a statement Wednesday night.
Needless to say, one case and one death is not anything to get frightened about.
But now it is being reported that 12 more people from the same Cambodian province “are suspected of having been infected with the H5N1 bird flu”…
A dozen people in Cambodia are suspected of having been infected with the H5N1 bird flu strain tearing through the world’s avian population – sparking global panic about a spillover of the deadly virus to humans. The 12 suspected cases are located in the same province as an 11-year-old girl who died from the infection Wednesday, raising fears the virus may be spreading from human to human – not just from birds to people.
If these cases are confirmed, this will create quite a stir in that part of the world.
And a number of prominent health experts here in the western world are already expressing concern about what this might mean…
Dr Arturo Casadevall, an immunologist at Johns Hopkins, wrote on Twitter: ‘Key information is whether the 12 infected people obtained it from a bird source or from human-to-human transmission, which would be very worrisome.’ Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and Chief of COVID Task Force at the New England Complex Systems Institute, tweeted: ‘Hope this wasn’t human to human, but I’m now getting to be worried,’
Hopefully this will turn out to be nothing.
But what if it does turn out to be something?
I believe that we have entered an era of great pandemics, and right now we are perfectly primed for the next one because there are countless people all over the globe with deeply compromised immune systems.
And I think that it is important to note that health authorities all over the world are acting as if this could end up being a really big deal.
For instance, health authorities in the UK are now studying what “a worst-case scenario bird flu outbreak” would look like…
Scientists are modelling how a worst-case scenario bird flu outbreak could sweep the UK if the virus spread to humans. Officials at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said they are developing ‘scenarios of early human transmission’ to help with preparedness, planning and improvements to surveillance.
And the head of the WHO recently publicly announced that we “must prepare” for the possibility of an H5N1 pandemic.
There is one more thing that I wanted to mention.
Most people don’t realize this, but more than a decade ago scientists conducted gain-of-function experiments on H5N1. As a result of those experiments, they were able to get H5N1 to spread easily among ferrets…
In fact, back in 2011, two scientists separately undertook just this sort of research, adapting H5N1 to spread among ferrets, whose respiratory tract closely resembles our own. The research demonstrated that bird flu could not only spill over into mammalian hosts but, under the proper circumstances, pass between mammalian hosts—just as it now seems to be doing—and perhaps even human ones.
This sort of research should be banned globally, but it isn’t.
Let us hope that we don’t see an H5N1 pandemic any time soon.
Because the panic that we would witness would be off the charts.
There would be more lockdowns, more restrictions and more attacks on personal liberty.
And it is likely that millions upon millions of people would die.
So I will be watching this story very closely, and I will definitely be hoping that this new outbreak in Cambodia quickly fizzles out.