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Could the Recent Mutation of the H5N1 Strain Lead to a Pandemic?

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In a recent podcast of the New England Journal of Medicine, experts from the University of Michigan discussed biology, current state and the threat of avian influenza virus. This podcast was attended by Stephen Morrissey, Eric Rubin, Lindsey Baden Arnold Monto and Jeanne Marrazzo.  

Arnold Monto and Jeanne Marrazzo are the experts from the University of Michigan. They said it is very important to understand more about the H5N1 strain. It has been spreading in cattle rapidly in the US. This strain also has found in one man in US recently. Researchers think this strain is very dangerous and has the potential to cause a pandemic. Researchers have also found some mutations in this strain that increases its transmission in some mammals. This mutation has raised concerns. 

They also discussed the role of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in understanding more about this viral infection. This NIAID is working along with some government agencies such as USDA and CDC and continuously tracking the cases of avian influenza. The Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Response (CEIRS) is tracking wild and household animals to keep count of this strain. 

The experts also said that there is a need to learn more about this strain and develop a vaccine against it. They already have developed a vaccine and studies have proved that it can effectively protect humans against this infection. Some antivirals such as oseltamivir and baloxavir can also kill the virus. But this virus can become resistant after some time. 

The current outbreak of this infection has not become a pandemic in humans yet. But there is a possibility that cannot be denied. So, there is a need for more research to understand more about it to develop some effective strategies and treatments to reduce the possible risk.