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Russia has notified the WHO of the possible strain. “If confirmed, this would be the first time H5N8 has infected people,” a spokesperson for WHO Europe said in a statement on Saturday.

The reported cases involved workers exposed to flocks of birds, according to preliminary information, the statement added.

The workers were “asymptomatic and no human-to-human transmission was reported,” the spokesperson said.

Speaking in a televised briefing on Saturday, Anna Popova, head of the Russian Federal Service for Oversight of Consumer Rights and Human Welfare Protection, said the strain was detected in seven livestock workers from poultry in the south of the country, the state said. TASS agency reported.

Although it has yet to be confirmed by the WHO, the Russian health authority said it was in discussions with national authorities to gather more information and “assess the impact on public health” of the incident.

Bird flu usually only affects birds and there are many different strains.

Most cases of human infection are due to contact with infected poultry or surfaces contaminated with excretions from infected birds: saliva, nasal secretions or feces.

In 2014, an outbreak of H5N8 infected poultry on farms in Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

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