Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador AFP

Mexican authorities denied that a person died of bird flu in the country, which would have been the first such case at a global level.

The country's health minister Jorge Alcocer said the person in question died as a result of kidney failure and complications from diabetes rather than the aforementioned disease, claiming the statement by the World Health Organization (WHO) about the issue was "pretty lousy."

"It discusses a fatality, which didn't happen. He died of something else and without determining (it was bird flu), and only marginally highlights that risks are low in these cases," said Alcocer.

He went on to say that Mexican authorities will meet with WHO counterparts to "clarify" the release announcing the "first human death confirmed in a lab of bird flu AH5N2 reported at a global level."

"Basically, authorities got samples after the death and one of them showed AH5N2 virus, which is linked to bird flu," said Alcocer. "So far there is no evidence of human to human transmission and the patient doesn't have a record of family contact or close encounters explaining the origin of the infection."

The WHO said earlier on Thursday that the case was reported in late May but took place in mid-April. The person, who was hospitalized in Mexico City, had no history of exposure to poultry or other animals. He was reported to have multiple underlying medical conditions and had been bedridden for three weeks for other reasons prior to showing acute symptoms of bird flu. He was hospitalized on April 24 and died on the same day.

Beyond the person's cause of death, the UN body explained that at a general level that "avian influenza virus infections in humans may cause mild to severe upper respiratory tract infections and can be fatal." "Conjunctivitis, gastrointestinal symptoms, encephalitis and encephalopathy have also been reported."

The WHO also noted that when such viruses circulate in poultry, "there is a risk for infection and small clusters of human cases due to exposure to infected poultry or contaminated environments" and, therefore, "sporadic human cases are not unexpected."

It added that so far evidence suggests that "A(H5) viruses from previous events have not acquired the ability to sustain transmission between humans, thus the current likelihood of sustained human-to-human spread is low."

The current risk to the general population, it added, continues to be low and WHO recommendations on public health measures and surveillance didn't change even when the case was believed to be a result of bird flu.

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