Photo Credit – FAO
Given that HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza) H5N6 was only first identified four months ago in China our understanding of the threat posed by this upstart H5 virus is fairly limited.
We know that it has produced at least one fatal human illness in China, and that the virus was contemporaneously identified in local poultry (see Sichuan China: 1st Known Human Infection With H5N6 Avian Flu).
Since then Vietnam has reported three outbreaks in poultry as well (see Meanwhile, Back In Vietnam . . . .), although no other human cases have been reported. While widely separated, two of these three outbreaks have been in Vietnam’s northern provinces, very near the Chinese border.
Last winter, during China’s second wave of H7N9, Vietnam was on alert for the anticipated arrival of that emerging virus. Although the H7N9 never made it that far south, given the amount of cross-border smuggling of poultry that goes on, it remains a very real threat.
Now, in addition to the H5N1 virus which remains endemic in Vietnam and much of Southeast Asia, and the H7N9 virus which is endemic in China, they have the H5N6 virus to worry about.
This morning, I count no less than a dozen articles in the Vietnamese press warning of the potential for seeing fresh outbreaks, and possibly even human infections, from H5N6.
In addition to increasing surveillance and disinfection in poultry operations, hospitals in Lao Cai province have been asked to send respiratory samples from any acute pneumonia or respiratory cases to Hanoi for testing.
This representative report is from Talk Vietnam.
Posted on August 26, 2014
The Department of Preventive Medicine on August 25 ordered the northern border province of Lao Cai to brace for the influenza virus strain A/H5N6 as it caused human deaths in China’s Sichuan province.
The avian flu strain was detected recently in a flock of pheasants in Pho Lu town, making Lao Cai the third Vietnamese locality to be affected by A/H5N6 after northern Lang Son province bordering China and central Ha Tinh province bordering Laos.
Vietnam has not recorded any A/H5N6 patients so far, the department under the Ministry of Health said.
To prevent the poultry-to-human transmission of A/H5N6, it requested Lao Cai’s veterinary and health sectors to disinfect the hotbeds, keep a close watch on vulnerable areas, especially at poultry farms and markets, and strictly punish the smuggling of fowls.
The province, which shares 203.5km of borderline with China, was also told to be prepared for possible A/H5N6 exposure and send samples of those with acute respiratory diseases and pneumonia to the Hanoi-based National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology to test for the strain.
Local authorities were asked to prompt communication campaigns to raise public awareness of preventing the transmission of H5N6 from fowls to human.
According to the World Health Organisation, A/H5N6 is a highly pathogenic strain but there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission despite occasional instances of apparent inflection between family members.