Before COVID, reports of a new bird flu trickling or even sweeping out of Asia didn't garner much attention. That's certainly changed. So when two members of the China Novel Coronavirus Investigating and Research Team, who co-authored the first warning of what was to come in February 2020 in The New England Journal of Medicine, sound a new alarm, maybe we should listen.
In a short Insights Perspective published in Science, "Emerging H5N8 avian influenza viruses," Weifeng Shi and George Gao make the case for concern that a bird flu now in more than 46 countries across Europe, Asia, and Africa has jumped to humans. Only seven poultry farm workers in Russia were reported to have gotten sick, while trying to contain an outbreak among their feathered charges. But there must have been a time, in the fall of 2019, when COVID, too, had sickened only a few people.
An avian influenza virus would need to pass easily from person-to-person to seed a pandemic in people, like SARS-CoV-2 does. That's unlikely, but as we've learned, not impossible.
To continue reading, go to my DNA Science blog at Public Library of Science, where this post first appeared.