Russia reports world's first-ever A(H5N8) avian flu infection in humans

Russia has reported the world's first case of human infection with avian influenza A(H5N8), Anna Popova, the head of Rospotrebnadzor said.

An outbreak of this type of influenza was registered in December 2020 at a poultry farm in southern Russia. Seven employees of the company were infected.

"Until now, no cases in the world have been reported when humans contracted H5N8 avian influenza virus. In Russia, the first infection among humans with avian influenza A virus, H5N8, has been confirmed," Popova said.

She called the confirmation of the infection an "important scientific discovery" and "a victory of Russian scientists." The "epidemiological shield of the country" has worked, she added, RBC reports.

Popova added that all measures to protect people and animals had been carried out within a short period of time, all risks were minimized, and the crisis did not develop further.

All the seven patients suffered the infection in a "very mild form" and are now doing well. The disease ended "quickly enough," the head of Rospotrebnadzor, Russia's health and consumer safety watchdog said.

The new pathogen of avian influenza A(H5N8) can be transmitted from birds to humans.
According to Popova, no cases of transmission from human to human have been reported yet.

Russia sent all relevant information to the World Health Organization (WHO) and posted full genome sequencing data for the A(H5N8) virus with the mutations that enabled it to overcome the interspecies barrier in the GISAID international database.

Popova noted that the timely detection of the ability of A(H5N8) to infect people gives the world time to develop vaccines and test systems.

Most avian influenza viruses do not cause illness in humans. However, some of them are zoonotic and can infect humans and cause disease. The best known one of them is the H5N1 avian influenza virus subtype, which has caused illnesses and deaths among humans since 1997.