Russia Reports First Cases Of H5N8 Bird Flu In Humans
The virus was found in seven employees at a poultry farm in southern Russia, where outbreaks of H5N8 were reported in the bird population in December 2020, officials say.
Anna Popova, head of Russia’s consumer health watchdog, in a televised statement on Saturday said;
Today, I want to inform you about an important scientific discovery made by scientists at the Vector scientific center. The first cases of human infection with [avian influenza A(H5N8)] have been laboratory confirmed.
Popova revealed that scientists at Vektor laboratory had isolated the strain’s genetic material from seven workers at the poultry farm.
The workers did not suffer any serious health consequences, she added.
Located in Koltsovo outside the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, the Vektor State Virology and Biotechnology Center has developed one of Russia’s several coronavirus vaccines.
In the Soviet era, the top-secret lab conducted secret biological weapons research and still stockpiles viruses ranging from Ebola to smallpox.
Information about the world’s first case of transmission of the avian flu (H5N8) to humans has already been sent to the World Health Organization.
There are different subtypes of avian influenza viruses. While the highly contagious strain H5N8 is lethal for birds, it has never before been reported to have spread to humans.
Popova praised “the important scientific discovery,” saying “time will tell” if the virus can further mutate
The virus can be transmitted from birds to humans, it has overcome the interspecies barrier. As of today, this variant of the influenza virus is not being transmitted from person to person. Only time will tell how quickly future mutations will allow it to overcome this barrier.
The discovery of these mutations when the virus has not still acquired an ability to transmit from human to human gives us all, the entire world, time to prepare for possible mutations and react in an adequate and timely fashion.
Popova added that the discovery will help researchers to prepare for the possibility of human-to-human transmission of H5N8 virus.
H5N8 has been found in birds since at least 1983 and outbreaks have occurred frequently since 2014, when it was found in breeding ducks in South Korea.
Numerous outbreaks have been reported during the last 6 months, including in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, China, Japan, and South Korea.
In an update about recent outbreaks, World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said;
The H5N8 type influenza is regarded as pathogenic and is currently manifesting itself in a variety of ways, from asymptomatic and sub-clinical to highly lethal in some populations.
Human cases of H5 viruses are rare but are typically found in people who had contact with sick or dead birds.
239 human cases of H5N1 bird flu have been reported in China and Southeast Asia since 2003, killing 134 people, according to WHO.
More recently, two people in China were infected with H5N6 bird flu in January, resulting in the death of a three-year-old girl.
WHO in a recent public health assessment for H5 viruses said;
Community awareness of the potential dangers for human health is essential to prevent infection in humans. Surveillance should be continued to detect human cases and early changes in transmissibility and infectivity of the viruses.