Influenza A(H5N8) Virus in Humans

Seven people at a poultry farm in southern Russia have tested positive for Influenza A(H5N8), officials reported on February 20, 2021, making it the first time that the highly pathogenic virus has been found in humans. There is no evidence (yet) of human-to-human transmission.
The virus was found in seven employees at a poultry farm in southern Russia, where outbreaks of Influenza A(H5N8) had previously been reported in the bird population. Anna Popova, the head of Russia’s consumer health watchdog, described the human cases as "mild".

“The virus can be transmitted from birds to humans, it has overcome the interspecies barrier,” Popova said. “This variant of the influenza virus is not transmitted from person to person. Only time will tell how quickly future mutations will allow it to overcome this barrier.”

Popova said the discovery will help researchers to prepare for the possibility of human-to-human transmission of the Influenza A(H5N8) virus. Information about the cases has been submitted to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Human cases of H5 viruses are rare but are sometimes found in people who are exposed to sick or dead birds.

239 human cases of H5N1 bird flu have been reported in China and Southeast Asia since 2003, killing 134 people, according to the WHO. Two people in China were also infected with H5N6 bird flu in January 2021, resulting in the death of a three-year-old girl.

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