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Mexico Death Tied to Bird Flu Strain

Updated: | Originally published:

A person in Mexico died after contracting a strain of bird flu that hasn’t been confirmed in humans before, the World Health Organization said Wednesday. 

The virus was detected in a 59-year-old who had been hospitalized in Mexico City. The person died one week after developing a fever, shortness of breath and diarrhea. It’s the first lab-confirmed case of a person contracting a form of bird flu known as H5N2, the WHO said in a statement, raising questions about a strain that has largely been under the radar. The current bird flu outbreak in US dairy cows is being driven by a different strain — H5N1. 

The patient, who lived in Central Mexico, had no history of exposure to poultry or other animals and had underlying medical conditions. The Mexican government does not know where the patient was exposed to the virus, though the strain of avian influenza has been reported in poultry in the Mexican state where the person lived. 

No other H5N2 cases have been identified in humans, according to WHO, which said the current risk posed by the virus to the general public is low. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. 

The patient who died had been bedridden for three weeks “for other reasons” prior to the onset of acute symptoms, the WHO said, citing the patient’s relatives. 

Mexican authorities reported the fatal human case to the WHO on May 23 after confirming the presence of the virus.