With the dual caveats that the Russian press isn't necessarily the most reliable source on the planet, and I've found no official confirmation on any government site, over the past couple of hours Russian media has gone ballistic over a purported statement by Anna Popova - Chief State Sanitary Physician of the Russian Federation - regarding potential human infection with HPAI H5N8.
Popova's comments reportedly came at the fifth meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization just held in Sochi, Russia. Members of the SCO includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan (see Final Statement From The Conference).HPAI H5N8, which has been spreading globally since it emerged in Korea in early 2014, was the cause of last winter's record epizootic in Europe, has migrated to both the Middle East and Africa, and is expected to make a return appearance this winter in the Northern Hemisphere.
For all of its destruction, H5N8's one saving grace has been its inability to infect humans. With the exception of the detection of H5N8 antibodies in Korean dogs and some laboratory experiments with mice, it has only been known to infect birds.We have seen some cautionary studies in the past year warning that the virus might, over time, adapt to mammals (see J. Virulence : Altered Virulence Of (HPAI) H5N8 Reassortant Viruses In Mammalian Models and Study: Virulence Of HPAI H5N8 Enhanced By 2 Amino Acid Substitutions) but to date, the virus has been reassuringly benign for humans.
If Russian media reports can be believed (a big `if'), that may be changing.
According to multiple media reports, Popova announced that humans with close contact with H5N8 infected birds - while suffering no clinical signs - have tested positive for antibodies to the virus. An important development, if true.Unfortunately we get no details on where or when this occurred, or how many seropositive human cases have been detected. For now, without an official statement or more detailed information, we don't have a lot to hang our hat on.
So . . .offered entirely without endorsement and suffering from the kludgy syntax typical of machine translations, a few examples of the sort of reports being published in the Russian media over the past couple of hours:
The head of Rospotrebnadzor reported the detection of the new strain of bird flu human
We are talking about the virus H5N8, which had previously seen only in birds, warns the Federal Service.
However, as reported today by the head of Rospotrebnadzor Anna Popova, Russian scientists have confirmed the possibility of asymptomatic human infection with avian influenza virus H5N8, which has been observed previously only in birds. This suggests that the virus has passed the species barrier and acquired new properties that can be potentially harmful to humans, reported RIA "Novosti" referring to the head of Rospotrebnadzor Anna Popova.
However, at the same time, we found that in the study of blood serum of people who have been in contact, took care of the birds in these outbreaks, found antibodies against the flu virus in the blood and H5N1 and H5N8 is almost no clinical appearances, therefore interspecific transition threshold - here it is.
The head of Rospotrebnadzor expressed the hope that in the future, this strain does not lead to negative results. According to Popova, for scientists, this situation will be motivated to continue the observation and study of bird flu. But pockets of outbreaks in birds in the early 2012th were recorded in 48 countries in Asia, Africa, North America and Europe.
News: Russian scientists have warned about the dangers of bird flu to humans
October 31 - RIA
Russian virologists concluded that the H5N8 virus could overcome the species barrier, and gained the ability to settle in the cells of the human body. Avian influenza occurs while a person has no symptoms, but can not be excluded and negative consequences. Head of Rospotrebnadzor Anna Popova said this at a meeting held in Sochi dedicated to the global challenges of mankind.
The forum on Biosafety and combating infectious diseases in the SCO countries are involved leading experts of national supervisory authorities of the Union. In his report, Popov told about the monitoring procedure for the development of the virus strain in the country. Due to the completeness and the systematic study of cases of avian influenza outbreaks could get an accurate picture of its geography and predict possible threats.
Popov noted that people in the blood, in the courtyard where there was a case of birds were found "antibodies to influenza viruses H5N1 and H5N8, and with little or no clinical appearances."
This means that the virus crossed the species barrier. Head of Rospotrebnadzor expressed concerns in this regard is that from this point on avian influenza could have negative consequences for the people.
Russians have warned about a new form of bird flu
Russian doctors have said that people can develop H5N8 flu virus, which used to be seen only in birds themselves. That is, this type of virus was the species barrier and acquired new properties that can be potentially dangerous to humans.
"In the study of blood serum of people who have been in contact, took care of the birds in these outbreaks, antibodies to the flu virus in the blood and H5N1 and H5N8 virtually no clinical appearances, therefore, the threshold interspecies transfer - here it is", - quotes the head of Rospotrebnadzor Anna Popova RIA "News".
Head of Rospotrebnadzor expressed the hope that this strain does not lead to negative results in the future. However, she stressed that it is not quite sure of that.
According to Popov, for scientists, this situation will be motivated to continue the observation and study of bird flu.
(Continue . . .)
Hopefully we'll get something a bit more reliable on this story in the coming days. Until then, I'd advise taking all of this with a large grain of salt.