Two human cases of bird flu have reportedly been detected in China as concerns about the outbreak’s potential threat to the global population grow.

The largest ever bird flu outbreak – caused by the deadly H5N1 strain – is rapidly moving across the planet, and has already spread to hundreds of mammals after killing hundreds of millions of birds worldwide.

It has already been detected in species across Asia, Europe, North and South America and Africa, and last month, an 11-year-old Cambodian girl died from the illness, becoming the nation’s first bird flu fatality in many years.

Despite the tragedy, the World Health Organisation (WHO) at the time stressed that the risk to humans was low – however, it noted it was “worried” about the current outbreak, while some scientists have also publicly expressed concerns that it could start jumping more rapidly from mammals to humans.

WHO director of epidemic and pandemic preparedness and prevention Dr Sylvie Briand also recently confirmed the global health organisation was working with Cambodian authorities as the “worrying” outbreak continues.

“The global H5N1 situation is worrying given the wide spread of the virus in birds around the world and the increasing reports of cases in mammals including humans,” Dr Briand said.

“WHO takes the risk from this virus seriously and urges heightened vigilance from all countries.”

Now, two separate human cases of bird flu in China have also been confirmed, including a 53-year-old woman in the eastern province of Jiangsu, who is believed to have begun to experience symptoms on January 31 after being exposed to poultry, before testing positive to H5N1 in February.

Her condition is not yet known, with limited details of the case released by authorities.

Health authorities in Hong Kong have also now confirmed a 49-year-old man in southern China’s Guangdong province has also tested positive to the separate H5N6 bird flu strain after coming into close contact with live domestic birds.

The man fell ill in December, and remains in a serious condition.

According to Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece the Global Times, experts believe that case was “random and the risk of transmission of the virus is low”.

However, the publication also chillingly notes that “once infected [with H5N6], humans could face high probability of death”.

“H5N6 is a dangerous influenza for humans. Once infected, up to 93.8 per cent of cases develop into severe cases and death rate could reach above 60 per cent,” the Times claimed, citing a televised report from Huizhou, Guangdong.

According to the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health in Hong Kong, there have been 83 human cases of avian influenza A (H5N6) in the Chinese mainland since 2014.

Despite the concerning developments, it’s important to note that both Chinese cases do not appear to be linked, and also that there is no suggestion that bird flu has yet spread from person to person.

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Professor Francois Balloux, the director of the UCL Genetics Institute and professor of computational biology at University College London, recently took to Twitter to confirm that all strains of bird flu were a “serious concern”, and that “avian flu has been recognised as the biggest pandemic risk for 20 years”.

However, while he noted that “human-to-human transmission happens”, he stressed that “it doesn’t happen more now than it did before”, and that it was likely that the H5N1 outbreak wouldn’t end up being a major cause for concern.

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