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Russia announced on Saturday that it had detected the first case of transmission to humans of the H5N8 strain of bird flu, adding that it had informed the World Health Organization of this “important discovery”.
This is a worrying first. Russia announced on Saturday February 20 that it had detected the first case of transmission to humans of the H5N8 strain of avian influenza. Moscow informed the World Health Organization (WHO) of this “important discovery”. The virus “is not transmitted from person to person,” Russia warned.
“The laboratory has confirmed the first case of a person’s infection with the group A virus, avian influenza AH5N8,” Anna Popova, head of the Russian health agency Rospotrebnadzor, told television.
This virus was detected in seven infected people in a poultry factory in southern Russia, where an epidemic of bird flu affected the animals in December 2020, said Anna Popova, adding that the sick “feel good” and no ‘have no complications.
“Measures were quickly taken to control the situation” in this focus of infection, she said.
While the H5N8 strain has “crossed the interspecies barrier” by being transmitted from birds to humans, “this variant of the virus is not transmitted from person to person at present,” said she said again.
The discovery “gives the whole world time to prepare”
She said the detection “gives the whole world time to prepare” by creating tests and a vaccine, “in the event that this virus becomes more pathogenic and more dangerous to humans and gains the ability to be transmitted. from person to person “.
“We would then be fully armed and fully prepared,” she continued.
The Russian state laboratory Vektor, at the origin of the discovery, also estimated that it is necessary “today to begin to develop a test system which will make it possible to quickly detect cases of this disease in humans” and to “start work” on a vaccine.
Anna Popova indicated that Russia had “already sent this information to the World Health Organization”.
Russia has a long tradition of research in the field of viruses and vaccines and has notably developed a vaccine against Covid-19, Sputnik V, which is more than 91% effective according to scientific results confirmed by independent experts.
The H5N8 strain of bird flu is currently raging in several European countries, including France, where millions of animals have been slaughtered to stop its spread.
Potential for mutation
According to the WHO, the transmission of avian influenza to humans is a rare occurrence and requires “direct or close contact with infected birds or with their environment”. However, this virus “must be watched” because it has the potential to mutate.
The circulation of certain avian influenza variants in poultry around the world is “of public health concern” because they are able to “cause serious disease in humans” who have “little or no immunity to the virus. “, adds the WHO.
According to the organization, humans may in particular already be infected with avian influenza viruses of the H5N1, H7N9 and H9N2 subtypes.
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