Child in Victoria contracts first case of H5N1 bird flu in Australia

A child has been confirmed as the first case of H5N1 bird flu in Australia.

The child contracted the avian influenza A infection while in India and fell ill in March this year, according to Victorian health officials.

The announcement came hours after bird flu was detected on a farm in Victoria.

“Contact tracing has not identified any further cases of avian influenza connected to this case,” Victoria Health said in a statement.

The child reportedly suffered a severe infection but has since recovered.

Officials explained that the avian influenza virus was identified through additional testing of positive influenza samples, part of Victoria’s enhanced surveillance system designed to detect novel or concerning flu virus strains.

Health officials emphasised that most people are not at risk from the virus unless they have contact with infected birds, animals, or their secretions in affected areas.

“The avian influenza virus was detected through further testing of positive influenza samples that takes place to detect novel or concerning flu virus strains, as part of Victoria’s enhanced surveillance system,” officials said.

“Rarely, avian influenza infection in humans can pass to another person with prolonged contact.

“However, there is no evidence that the H5N1 strains of avian influenza circulating globally can be spread easily from human to human.”

Earlier this year, University of Sydney School of Veterinary Science professor Michael Ward said bird flu could have the potential to cause a pandemic after being detected in Antarctica for the first time.

“There’s a big public health concern because before Covid everyone was saying bird influenza is going to be the next pandemic,” he said.

“Covid came in and sort of leapfrogged it, but it’s still very high up on the agenda as one of the viruses that has the potential to cause a pandemic.

“So every time it spills over into humans, we’re concerned.“Australia gets very little bird influenza, but it’s been really raging in North America and especially Europe the last two years – a bit out of control.”

Professor Ward said the behaviour of the flu’s spread had been “unusual”.

“It may not be surprising it’s ended up in Antarctica, but it’s surprising because it’s so remote. And if it’s got there, there’s nowhere it can’t get,” he said.

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