Sunday, December 28, 2014

WHO GAR Update – H5N6 In China


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The avian H5N6 virus, which was only first detected last April in Nanchong City (see Sichuan China: 1st Known Human Infection With H5N6 Avian Flu) – where it infected and killed one person and infected local poultry – has expanded its geographic range over the past 8 months and has since been reported in Vietnam and across much of China (see  China: H5 AI Rising).


While primarily a concern for poultry producers (see FAO Warns On H5N6), last week we learned of a second human infection in Guangdong Province, China (see China: 2nd Human Case Of H5N6 Reported). 


Although it doesn’t add much to what we already knew about this case, today the World Health Organization has posted the following update on that case.  The patient is still listed as being in critical condition. 


Human infection with avian influenza A(H5N6) virus – China

Disease outbreak news
28 December 2014

On 23 December 2014, the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) of China notified WHO of 1 laboratory-confirmed case of human infection with avian influenza A(H5N6) virus.

Details of the case are as follows
  • A 58-year-old male from Guangzhou city, Guangdong Province who developed symptoms on 4 December. He was admitted to hospital on 9 December and is now in critical condition. The patient has history of exposure to live poultry.
The Chinese Government has taken the following surveillance and control measures
  • Strengthen surveillance and situation analysis
  • Reinforce case management and medical treatment
  • Conduct risk communication with the public and release information.

WHO continues to closely monitor the H7N9 situation and conduct risk assessment. So far, the overall risk associated with the H7N9 virus has not changed.

WHO advice

WHO advises that travellers to countries with known outbreaks of avian influenza should avoid poultry farms, or contact with animals in live bird markets, or entering areas where poultry may be slaughtered, or contact with any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with faeces from poultry or other animals. Travellers should also wash their hands often with soap and water. Travellers should follow good food safety and good food hygiene practices.

WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event, nor does it currently recommend any travel or trade restrictions. As always, a diagnosis of infection with an avian influenza virus should be considered in individuals who develop severe acute respiratory symptoms while travelling or soon after returning from an area where avian influenza is a concern.

WHO encourages countries to continue strengthening influenza surveillance, including surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns, in order to ensure reporting of human infections under the IHR (2005), and continue national health preparedness actions.


While H5N1 and H7N9 are probably still the two avian viruses of greatest concern, the field has been growing the past few years. Since December of 2013 four new avian viruses – H10N8, H5N8, H5N3 & H5N6 – have emerged, and we don’t have a good handle on how much of an impact they will ultimately have.


H5N8 has certainly shown the ability to travel well, having already shown up in Europe and North America, but so far it doesn’t appear to infect humans.   H10N8 and H5N6 are less well traveled, but have infected and killed a handful of people. 

How all of these viruses will interact (and evolve) is something we are going to have to watch closely over the coming months.  For now, the good news is none of these avian viruses appears capable of transmitting efficiently from human to human, and they remain primarily a threat to birds and the poultry industry.

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