Avian Influenza – China

August 20, 2021 – A suspected case of H5N6 reported in Huizhou, Guangdong. The individual identified is a 52-year-old adult female from Boluo County, Huizhou City. She has been admitted to a hospital in Huizhou. Symptoms were not reported for this case.

H5N6 is a variation of the influenza type A virus that is transmitted from birds such as chickens, ducks, and other migratory birds. The symptoms can include coughing, fever, headache, and general ill-feeling, as mentioned in the source. The onset and length of the infection for this case is not known. It is suspected that the individuals came in contact with poultry or avian animal that carried the virus. Investigation is still underway.

As the individual is currently being treated, no other cases have been reported and officials of the source state that the risk of transmission for this case is low at the stage that it is in. Officials encourage and remind the community to practice thorough hand hygiene especially handling poultry, before eating, and after using the restroom. They also encourage the community to cook poultry and eggs thoroughly and refrain from eating dead poultry meat, obtaining poultry from unknown sources, and avoid live poultry markets if able. Finally, they advise to seek immediate medical attention when respiratory and other health issues are present; especially if poultry was handled or in contact.

Photo: H5N1 virus colorized micrograph, viruses are gold colored in MDCK cells (green).

Avian influenza is deadly to most birds, but it can also be deadly to humans and other animals that catch the virus (poultry farming). Since the first human case in 1997, H5N1 has killed nearly 60% of those who have been infected. Unlike human flu, avian flu does not spread easily from person to person.

Avian influenza subtypes H5N8, H5N5, H5N3, and H5N1 are currently circulating mostly in the European continent (for now). The pathogens have been detected in wild birds and these viruses are being distributed wherever wild birds migrate.

Poultry producers are recommended to implement bio-security measures necessary to protect their flocks and humans from exposure and infection.

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