Avian Influenza – Russia

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Russia reports first human cases of H5N8 bird flu.

Seven people at a poultry farm in southern Russia have been infected with H5N8 bird flu, officials say, making it the first time that the highly pathogenic virus has been found in humans. There is no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

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. The now reported human cases are apparently mild to asymptomatic. No evidence was found of human-to-human transmission.

A possibility of human-to-human transmission of the H5N8 virus exists if it adapts to human hosts. Detailed information about the cases has been submitted to the World Health Organization.

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 past 6 months, including in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, China, Japan, and South Korea.

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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