Avian Influenza – China

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Human cases of avian influenza A(H5N6) in the Mainland China. H5N6 is a subtype of the species Influenza A virus (sometimes called bird flu virus). Infected birds shed the virus in their saliva, mucous, and feces.

The reported signs and symptoms of bird flu virus infections in humans have ranged from no symptoms or mild illness [such as eye redness (conjunctivitis) or mild flu-like upper respiratory symptoms], to severe (such as pneumonia requiring hospitalization) and included fever. Incubation period of two to five days.

Currently four cases reported across China, one death and three in critical condition.

Travellers to the Mainland or other affected areas must avoid visiting wet markets, live poultry markets or farms. They should be alert to the presence of backyard poultry when visiting relatives and friends. They should also avoid purchasing live or freshly slaughtered poultry, and avoid touching poultry/birds or their droppings. They should strictly observe personal and hand hygiene when visiting any place with live poultry.

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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