Health

China reports 5 new human cases of H5N6 bird flu

Five more people in mainland China have tested positive for the H5N6 bird flu virus, killing two people and making three more seriously ill, officials said. It is adding to the growing number of human cases which has led to urgent calls for increased surveillance.

The Hong Kong Department of Health said in a statement that it had reported five new cases of human infection in Sichuan Province, Zhejiang Province and Guangxi Autonomous Region. The cases occurred over the past few weeks and were not immediately announced by local officials.

The first case is a 75-year-old man from Luzhou, Sichuan Province, who fell ill on December 1 after being exposed to domestic poultry. He was hospitalized four days later and died on December 12, according to the Hong Kong Department of Health.

The second case is a 54-year-old man from Leshan in Sichuan Province, who fell ill on December 8 and was hospitalized about a week later. He died on December 24. He reportedly had a history of exposure to live poultry.

The third case is a 51-year-old woman from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, who fell ill on December 15 after being exposed to live poultry. She was taken to hospital on December 18, and was last reported to be in critical condition.

The other two cases occurred in Liuzhou, a city in the Guangxi Autonomous Region. Hong Kong’s Department of Health said a 53-year-old man with a history of exposure to dead poultry fell ill on December 19 before being taken to hospital in serious condition. A 28-year-old man from the same city fell ill on December 23 and was said to be in critical condition.

It was not immediately clear how the second man was injured.

Only 65 people have been infected with H5N6 bird flu since the first confirmed case in 2014, but more than half of those have been reported within the past half year. The latest case was announced on January 7, when health officials in Guangdong province said a 43-year-old woman had been hospitalized with the H5N6 bird flu virus.

Click here for a list of all human cases to date.

Chinese officials provide only limited information on human cases of H5N6 bird flu and it often takes weeks before cases are reported to the World Health Organization. Most of the cases were first reported by the Hong Kong Department of Health, which is closely monitoring human cases.

According to the World Health Organization, H5N6 avian influenza is known to cause serious illness in humans of all ages and kills nearly half of those infected. There are no confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission, but a woman who tested positive for the virus in July 2021 denied contact with live poultry.

“The increasing trend of human infection with avian influenza virus has become an important public health issue that cannot be ignored,” researchers said in a study published by the CDC in China in September 2021. The study highlighted several mutations in two recent cases of H5N6 bird flu.

Thijs Kuiken, professor of comparative pathology at Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, expressed concern about the growing number of cases. “This alternative could be more contagious (to people)…or there could be more of this virus in poultry at the moment and that’s why more people are infected,” Quicken told Reuters in October 2021.

Earlier that month, a WHO spokesperson said the risk of human-to-human transmission remained low because H5N6 had not gained the potential for sustainable transmission between humans, but added that increased surveillance was “urgently needed” to better understand the growing number. . human cases.

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