Chile’s Ministry of Health reported on Wednesday that the country has detected the first incidence of bird flu in a human. The individual affected is a 53-year-old man who presented severe influenza symptoms, but is currently in stable condition. The ministry stated that they are investigating the source of contagion, as well as tracing individuals who may have come into contact with the infected patient.
While Chile has previously reported cases of H5N1 bird flu in wild animals since late last year, this is the first instance of the virus in a human. The government has already stopped exporting poultry due to recent cases in industrial farms. In Argentina, industrial cases have also been detected, but Brazil, which is the world’s largest poultry exporter, remains unaffected.
According to Chilean health authorities, the bird flu virus can be transmitted from birds or marine mammals to humans, but there is no known human-to-human transmission. However, earlier this year, Ecuador confirmed its first case of human transmission of bird flu in a 9-year-old girl.
Global health officials have stated that the risk of transmission between humans is low, but vaccine makers are still preparing bird flu shots for humans “just in case.”