It has been just two years since the first detection of HPAI H5N6 was announced in Sichaun Province, involving a poultry flock and one person who died. H5N6 is a emerging reassortant of H5N1 and H6N6 that has been reported also in poultry flocks in Laos and Vietnam.
Since then we've seen two cases in Yunnan province, and 7 cases in Guangdong province (see map above), with 5 of those cases occurring between December 20th, 2015 and January 18th of this year.
The last H5N6 case reported was in March, and once again it came from Guangdong province.
Today, Hong Kong's CHP has announced the first human infection from Hubei Province.
First the CHP's announcement, then I'll be back with more.
HP notified of additional human case of avian influenza A(H5N6) in Hubei
The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) was notified of an additional human case of avian influenza A(H5N6) in Hubei by the National Health and Family Planning Commission today (April 21), and again urged the public to maintain strict personal, food and environmental hygiene both locally and during travel.
The case involves a man aged 35 who developed fever on April 9 and was admitted to a hospital on April 12. He is now in critical condition.
From 2014 to date, a total of 11 human cases of avian influenza A(H5N6) have been reported by the Mainland health authorities.
"All novel influenza A infections, including H5N6, are statutory notifiable infectious diseases in Hong Kong," a spokesman for the CHP said.
"We will remain vigilant and work closely with the World Health Organization and relevant health authorities to monitor the latest developments," the spokesman said.
The DH's Port Health Office conducts health surveillance measures at all boundary control points. Thermal imaging systems are in place for body temperature checks on inbound travellers. Suspected cases will be immediately referred to public hospitals for follow-up.
The display of posters and broadcast of health messages in departure and arrival halls as health education for travellers is under way. The travel industry and other stakeholders are regularly updated on the latest information.
Travellers, especially those returning from avian influenza-affected areas with fever or respiratory symptoms, should immediately wear masks, seek medical attention and reveal their travel history to doctors. Health-care professionals should pay special attention to patients who might have had contact with poultry, birds or their droppings in affected areas.
(Continue . . .)
Last October, in H5N6: The Other HPAI H5 Threat, we looked at the history of this rising avian flu threat, while last summer H5N6 Rising: Infecting Birds, Humans, & Even Cats, we looked at a report which appeared last June’s Nature’s Scientific Reports, that warned:
The extensive migration routes of wild birds may contribute to the geographic spread of H5N6 AIVs and pose a risk to humans and susceptible domesticated animals, and the H5N6 AIVs may spread from southern China to northern China by wild birds. Additional surveillance is required to better understand the threat of zoonotic transmission of AIVs.
H5N6 has already turned up in wild and migratory birds in Hong Kong (see Hong Kong: Magpie Robin Tests Positive For HPAI H5) several times, and last February Hong Kong reported several H5N6 Positive Chicken Carcasses washing up on their beaches, presumably dumped somewhere up the Pearl River.
Given the lack of wild bird surveillance and reporting out of Mainland China, we don't really have a good feel for how rapidly the virus might be spreading, but H5N6 reports appear to be increasing and human infections in China now appear more common than from H5N1.
All of which makes H5N6 a virus to watch.