Unpredictable Pandemics: Viruses Spread Between Humans and Animals

Scientists are warning the public that ‘unpredictable pandemics’ are possible as viruses spread from animals to humans. The warning comes after a woman was diagnosed with the common strain of bird flu, H6N1 and after an article in The Lancet that talked about a need for “intensive” monitoring of bird flu.

Are we monitoring for these potential pandemics?

An article published in The Lancet entitled, “Human infection with avian influenza A H6N1 virus: an epidemiological analysis” discusses the human infection of H6N1. The 20 year old woman who was diagnosed with H6N1 went to the hospital in May 2013 presenting with shortness of breath, where the throat swab came up with an unsubtyped  influenza A virus.

The hospital sent the sample to the Tawian Centers for Disease Control for further identification; the tests showed that the virus was H6N1, but they couldn’t identify the source of the infection. This is the first report of the wild avian influenza, H6N1 in humans. Researcher conclude that as these viruses continue to evolve and change, the more at risk humans are of catching these viruses and then passing them onto other humans.

According to the researchers, “Our report highlights the continuous need for preparedness for a pandemic of unpredictable and complex avian influenza.”



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