In April, the first human death from the H5N2 bird flu virus occurred in Mexico. The WHO stated this was the first confirmed human death case of the A(H5N2) bird flu virus worldwide. However, the World Health Organization reported this on Wednesday and said they don’t know how the person got the virus. 

Although the source of exposure to the virus in this case is currently unknown, A(H5N2) viruses have been reported in poultry in Mexico.

World Health Organization

Details of the Incident

According to the WHO, this man was a 59-year-old in Mexico City, and he died on April 24. He had been in the hospital with symptoms like fever, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, nausea, and general discomfort. Also, Mexico’s public health department stated that the man had chronic kidney failure, diabetes, and high blood pressure. The man’s family said he had been bedridden for three weeks due to other health issues before his severe symptoms began. 

His Initial tests detected an unknown flu type. According to the WHO, further lab tests over the following weeks confirmed it was A(H5N2).

It was the first laboratory-confirmed human case of infection with an influenza A(H5N2) virus reported globally.

World Health Organization

Investigation and Findings

Andrew Pekosz, an influenza expert at Johns Hopkins University, told Reuters that this man’s existing health problems made him more likely to have severe flu. But, he said that how this person got infected with the bird flu virus is still a big mystery. In March, there were three incidents of H5N2 outbreaks in nearby areas of Mexico. However, authorities have not found any links between these outbreaks and the recent case.

Also, the WHO said they don’t know how the man got the virus, even though A(H5N2) has been found in chickens in Mexico. However, near where this man lived is a backyard chicken farm in Michoacan state. But, authorities have not yet found a link between that chicken farm and this man.

Public Health Implications

The WHO says that the risk to the general public is low since the virus hasn’t changed in a way that makes it easy to spread between people. Based on the information available, the risk of getting infected is seen as low to moderate for people who work with birds, like farmers.

Based on available information, WHO assesses the current risk to the general population posed by this virus as low

World Health Organization

Mexico’s health ministry stated on Wednesday that there is no proof of bird flu spreading between people in the case of the deceased man. They said he had existing health issues. And they said that everyone who had contact with him tested negative for the virus.

Further, Mexico’s Ministry of Health assured that there is no risk of the virus spreading to the population. Also, The ministry stated that they’re keeping an eye on farms near the man’s home and have set up a permanent system to watch for other wildlife cases in the area.

Expert Insights

According to Andrew Pekosz from Johns Hopkins University, H5 viruses have consistently shown a tendency to infect mammals more than any other avian flu virus since 1997.

So it continues to ring that warning bell that we should be very vigilant about monitoring for these infections because every spillover is an opportunity for that virus to try to accumulate those mutations that make it better infect humans.

Andrew Pekosz from Johns Hopkins University

Context and Comparison

Scientists mentioned that the bird flu case in Mexico is not connected to the outbreak of a different strain, H5N1, in the United States. This separate outbreak has only infected three workers on dairy farms. 

However, in previous years, various types of bird flu have caused deaths worldwide. For example, the virus A/goose/Guangdong/1/1996 caused H5N1 outbreaks in poultry in China and Hong Kong in 1997. There were 18 human cases associated with these outbreaks in Hong Kong, resulting in 6 deaths. This virus later caused over 860 human infections, with a death rate of more than 50%. 

Also, Australia reported its first human case of A(H5N1) infection in May. Fortunately, there had been no signs of the virus spreading between people. Further, in 2021, an outbreak of H5N6 in China resulted in 18 deaths, according to a timeline of bird flu outbreaks provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


The first human death from the H5N2 Bird Flu Virus in Mexico raises concerns around the world. Though the virus is low risk to the general public, scientists are still vigilant. Also, experts stated that the virus tries to accumulate those mutations that make it better infect humans. This isolated case highlights the ongoing importance of bird flu surveillance.


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