Avian Influenza – China

January 13, 2022 – Five cases of human avian influenza have been reported in the Sichuan Province, China. Two of the individuals, two adult males, have died from the infection. The other three individuals are being closely monitored. According to the source, this marks the sixth reported case this year. The first reported cases earlier this year was a 43 year-old adult female resident of Huizhou from the Guangdong Province.

China and Laos, according to the source, are the only two countries in Asia, out of the four, that have reported human avian influenza instances. The risk of sporadic human infection increases when humans are exposed to infected poultry or contaminated areas. Risk environments can include wet markets, live poultry markets, or farms. Though not confirmed, it is probable that these individual cases have been exposed to an environment or infected poultry.

Officials encourage individuals to avoid obtaining poultry or populating high risk environments. They should also avoid purchasing freshly butchered poultry or coming into contact with surfaces exposed to live poultry or their waste products. Lastly, proper hand hygiene should continually be practiced and individuals should consult the medical care team should they suspect any symptoms related to human avian influenza as it can be a fatal contagion.

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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