Russia detects first case of avian flu strain in humans

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Russian authorities say they have detected what is believed to be "human infection with avian influenza H5N8." Russia notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of the possible strain.

Russia said Saturday that its scientists had detected the world's first case of transmission of the H5N8 strain of avian flu from birds to humans.

In televised remarks, Russia\s chief sanitary inspector, Anna Popova, said scientists at the Vektor laboratory had isolated the strain's genetic material from seven workers at a poultry farm in southern Russia, where an outbreak was recorded among the birds in December.

The workers did not suffer any serious health consequences, she added. They are believed to have caught the virus from poultry on the farm.

“Information about the world's first case of transmission of the avian flu [H5N8] to humans has already been sent to the World Health Organization,” Popova said.

The WHO confirmed on Saturday that it had been notified by Russia about the development.

“We are in discussion with national authorities to gather more information and assess the public health impact of this event,” said a spokesperson. “If confirmed, this would be the first time H5N8 infects people.”

WHO stressed that the Russian workers were "asymptomatic" and no onward human-to-human transmission had been reported.

According to Global Times (GT), Yang Zhanqiu, deputy director of the Pathogen Biology Department at Wuhan University (China), said on Sunday that the pathogenicity of avian influenza seems not to be high judging by the current mild condition of the patients, which indicates the H5N8 bird flu outbreak is not that risky.

The H5N8 strain of bird flu has been found in Europe, South Asia, East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa in recent months, with no detected cases of human infection until the Russian report.

Source: Asia-Plus