In March of 2014, a new reassortant HPAI H5N6 virus appeared – almost simultaneously – in both China and Laos (see EID Journal: Influenza A(H5N6) Virus Reassortant, Southern China, 2014), and shortly after that showed up in Vietnam.
Since then, we’ve seen numerous outbreaks reported in both China and Vietnam, but curiously, not from Laos.
Recent H5N6 Activity – Credit OIE
This lack of H5N6 reports from Laos may well be due more to a lack of surveillance and testing rather than a complete absence of the virus over the past 18 months.
Today, however, we have a report filed by the Deputy Director General, Department of Livestock and Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Vientiane, Laos of an outbreak in the Northwestern province of Xayabury, very near the Thai border.
The close proximity of this outbreak to the eastern Thai border will no doubt be of concern to the Thai authorities, who had to deal extensively with H5N1 outbreaks a decade ago.
Descended from the H5N1 virus, H5N6 has shown the ability to infect – and severely sicken – humans. Three of four known cases have died.
We took a deeper look at this emerging avian flu virus a week ago in H5N6: The Other HPAI H5 Threat.
The concern with H5N6 is that like H5N1, and more recently with H5N8/H5N2, this virus could begin to spread more widely across Asia, and someday even pose a threat beyond that region of the world.