WHO details 2 recent cases of H5N6 in China
The World Health Organization (WHO) today provided details on two cases of H5N6 in China that were first reported last month by local authorities.
The first patient, a 47-year-old woman from Wugang prefecture in Hunan province, was diagnosed as having H5N6 on Nov 20. She had developed symptoms 3 days earlier and was admitted to the hospital in critical condition. An epidemiologic investigation is under way to determine her exposure to the virus.
Another woman, a 30-year-old from Guangxi province, developed symptoms on Nov 8 and was admitted to the hospital on Nov 18, also in critical condition. She was an agricultural worker and handled dead poultry before developing flu-like symptoms. According to the Chinese government, 127 close contacts are being monitored for H5N6, but so far none have been symptomatic.
So far, the WHO says the risk of human-to-human transmission remains very low, but urges travelers to avoid open-air poultry markets.
Dec 7 WHO update
Study suggests H5N1 from Egypt less transmissible than seasonal flu
Tests on ferrets to gauge the risk to mammals of recent highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 isolates from Egypt found that they transmitted by respiratory droplets and caused disease, but not in all experiments. A team from Egypt, Japan, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison reported its findings yesterday in Scientific Reports.
Though H5N1 is endemic in Egyptian poultry and has been detected in the country since 2006, the virus sparked an unprecedented surge of human infections in 2014 and 2015, sickening at least 173 people. Since then, scientists have been trying to determine if the surge was due to changes such as increased contact between people and poultry or if the virus has evolved to jump more easily to people.
In the new study, the researchers looked at nine H5N1 isolates collected from Egyptian household poultry in 2014 and 2015 to see how easily they transmit by respiratory droplets to ferrets. Three of the nine viruses were transmissible among ferrets, but the team wasn't able to reproduce the spread in three other transmission experiments.
The group wrote that the transmission efficiency of the H5N1 viruses in ferrets might be low enough that subtle changes in experimental conditions, such as air flow, animal health, or animal handling, may have influenced the outcomes. "Collectively, these data suggest that contemporary Egyptian HPAI H5N1 viruses may possess the ability to transmit among mammals, although not at the level of seasonal human influenza viruses," they said.
Dec 6 Sci Rep abstract