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The strain of H5N1 bird flu isolated from a dairy worker in Texas was 100 percent fatal in ferrets used to model influenza illnesses in humans. However, the virus appeared inefficient at spreading via respiratory droplets, according to newly released study results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The data confirms that H5N1 infections are significantly different from seasonal influenza viruses that circulate in humans. Those annual viruses make ferrets sick but are not deadly. They have also shown to be highly efficient at spreading via respiratory droplets, with 100 percent transmission rates in laboratory settings. In contrast, the strain from the Texas man (A/Texas/37/2024) appeared to have only a 33 percent transmission rate via respiratory droplets among ferrets.

“This suggests that A/Texas/37/2024-like viruses would need to undergo changes to spread efficiently by droplets through the air, such as from coughs and sneezes,” the CDC said in its data summary. The agency went on to note that “efficient respiratory droplet spread, like what is seen with seasonal influenza viruses, is needed for sustained person-to-person spread to happen.”

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