New Delhi, Mar 5: The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed a human case of bird flu in a Chinese woman.
The patient is a 53-year-old woman from Jiangsu province who has a history of contact with poultry, according to Daniel Epstein, with the WHO’s news media team. The woman’s symptoms began on January 31, and she was hospitalised on February 4.
Epstein said China informed the WHO about the case on February 24.
This comes after an 11-year-old girl in Cambodia died after contracting the avian influenza A (H5N1) virus. While her infected father remains in isolation in hospital, 11 other close contacts have tested negative, the WHO said in a recent report.
“Genomic sequencing showed that she was infected with H5N1 clade 22.214.171.124b, which is widely circulating in birds at the moment,” said Dr Sylvie Briand, director of epidemic and pandemic preparedness and prevention at the WHO.
“Since 2020, an increased number of avian influenza outbreaks have been reported in wild birds and poultry globally, and we can expect additional sporadic human cases,” she added.
According to the WHO, from 2003 to 2023, a total of 873 human cases of infection with influenza A (H5N1) and 458 deaths have been reported globally from 21 countries.
The WHO has said that available epidemiological and virological evidence suggest that current bird flu viruses have not acquired the ability of sustained transmission among humans.
While the risk of “human-to-human spread is low”…. “further human cases can be expected”, till the time avian influenza viruses are circulating in poultry, the global health body said.
To avert human bird flu outbreak risk, the agency has also warned tourists to avoid wet markets, farms and any areas where animals are slaughtered. The latest H5N1 case in China comes after a woman died from the virus in November in the southern province of Guangxi. This week, the country has also reported cases of two other types of avian influenza – H5N6 and H9N2, media reports said.
In Cambodia, the two cases of H5N1 are the first to be reported since 2014. In December 2003, Cambodia reported an outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 for the first time affecting wild birds. Since then, and until 2014, human cases due to poultry-to-human transmission have been sporadically reported in Cambodia.
The WHO advised regular hand washing and good food safety and food hygiene practices. It also stressed the importance of global surveillance to detect and monitor virological, epidemiological, and clinical changes associated with emerging or circulating influenza viruses that may affect human (or animal) health and timely virus sharing for risk assessment.