Reikorangi | The first case of human infection by bird flu in New Zealand has officially been confirmed by authorities this week as a local emu farmer is showing severe symptoms and is believed to have fallen victim to the disease.
Although human infection by avian flu is typically rare, infected birds do shed avian influenza virus in their saliva, mucous and feces, and any prolonged contact with these can be potentially hazardous to humans.
The local emu farmer apparently admitted to authorities that he did have sexual intercourse with several animals, which may explain how he contracted the virus, believe experts.
“I knew he was fond of his animals, but I’d never thought he would go that far!”
– Eliza Shniebel, neighbor
A low risk of contagion
New Zealand Ministry of Health issued a statement this morning warning local farmers that bird flu is in the region but that human infection “is highly unlikely.”
“The level of exposure to bird influenza of the patient currently under intensive care was extreme and way beyond average,” said a Health Department spokesman.
“Such intense exposure to bird fluids is highly improbable under normal circumstances,” he explained.
The local emu farmer that had recently lost his wife last year was “extremely depressed” and “felt terribly lonely” explained a nearby neighbor to reporters, which could explain the unusual sexual behavior of the man.
“In this case, since there was allegedly sexual intercourse between the owner and various birds on the farm, the risks of contracting the virus were much greater” explains biologist Hans Zimmer, of the University of Auckland.
“Frequent or repeated exposure to the feces or the birds genitals can be potentially hazardous to humans and should be avoided at all costs,” he warns.
The man could also face charges of bestiality, a criminal offence in New Zealand which could lead to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years, admit experts.