In the first 19 months after it emerged, China reported 4 human infections with the HPAI H5N6 avian flu virus. Two cases in 2014, and two more in the first 11 months of 2015.
Over the past 30 days, China has reported four more cases, all in Guangdong Province, raising intense media speculation that something may have changed in the virus's behavior.
Today Chinese scientists are assuring that no human-to-human transmission of this emerging virus has been documented.
BEIJING, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- Experts have found there is currently no evidence showing the H5N6 avian influenza virus (AIV) is capable of human-to-human infection, said an official at the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) on Friday.
Xiong Huang, deputy head of the publicity department of NHFPC, made the announcement based on growing concerns about avian flu in China.
Since September 2015, four isolated H5N6 cases have been reported across the country, with three in south China's Guangdong and one in neighboring Jiangxi Province, according to Xiong.
Despite no human-to-human infections of H5N6 AIV so far, the channels for the virus to spread from bird to human have yet to be eliminated, as people are more likely to be infected with respiratory diseases in winter, while cage-free poultry farming is still common in the country, Xiong said.
The NHFPC has already taken measures to prevent and control the disease, and countermeasures are being taken in the provinces hit by H5N6, Xiong added.
The world's first human H5N6 infection was reported in May 2014 in southwest China's Sichuan Province. A 26-year-old woman with the disease died in Shenzhen City seven months after diagnosis.
With the Lunar New Year celebration fast approaching (see Hong Kong Alert For Holiday Avian Flu Threat) concerns run high that the winter epidemic of H7N9, and now sporadic cases of H5N6, might expand as millions travel across Asia over the next 30 days.
The fact that only four, widely scattered, cases have been reported in the past month is a good sign the virus is not spreading easily.
But by the same token, the sudden increase in cases tells us the H5N6 virus is far better distributed in China's poultry than it was last year, making H5N6 a virus to watch.
For additional background on this emerging avian flu virus, you may wish to revisit H5N6: The Other HPAI H5 Threat.