Russian officials reported seven (7) cases of H5N8 bird flu in humans at a poultry farm in southern Russia. This adds to the first case of bird flu that passed from birds to humans. There is no confirmed report of human-to-human transmission.
The first ever 7 cases of H5N8 bird flu transmitted to humans
The head of Russia’s consumer health watchdog, Anna Popova, said Saturday: “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.”
The virus was detected in seven (7) employees at a poultry farm in southern Russia, where the H5N8 epidemic was found in the bird population in December 2020. The human cases are mild in nature, as described by Popova. She also said that the employees did not have any severe health results.
Popova further added that the virus can be transferred from birds to humans and cleared up the interspecies barrier. This variant of the influenza virus is not spreading from human to human. And only time will suggest how soon future mutations will allow it to overcome this barrier.
Officials have sent information about the seven (7) cases of H5N8 bird flu in Russia to the World Health Organization. The discovery of these mutations will help scientists to prepare for the possibility of human-to-human transmission of the H5N8 virus.
H5N8 outbreaks in several countries
H5N8 outbreaks have been occurring time and again since 2014 when it was detected in breeding ducks in South Korea. In the last 6 months, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, China, Japan, and South Korea reported several cases of outbreaks.
According to the WHO website, “Though human infections with A(H5) viruses are rare and generally occur in individuals exposed to sick or dead infected birds, they can lead to severe illness or death in humans.” China and Southeast Asia have suffered almost 239 cases of H5N1 bird flu since 2003, losing 134 lives.
WHO said in a public health assessment that community awareness of the possible dangers for human health is necessary to avoid infection in humans. Surveillance must be carried to detect human cases and early changes in transmissibility and infectivity of the viruses.