Rise in cases of human bird flu in China shows risk of fast-changing variants

By Dominique Patton

BEIJING (Reuters) – A jump in the number of people in China infected with bird flu this year raises concerns among experts, who say that a previously circulating strain appears to have changed and maybe more contagious to people.

China has reported 21 human infections with the H5N6 subtype of bird flu in 2021 met the World Health Organization (WHO), compared with only five last year, it said.

Although the numbers are much lower than the hundreds of infected with H7N9 in 2017, the infections are serious, leaving many seriously ill, and at least six dead.

“The increase in human cases in China this year is of care. It’s a virus that causes high mortality,” said Thijs Kuiken, professor of comparative pathology at the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam.

Most of the cases were in got in touch with poultry, and there are no confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission, the WHO said, die emphasized the rise in cases in a statement on Oct 4

It said further investigation was “urgent” required the understanding risk and the increase in to spill over until people.

Since then, a 60-year-old woman in Hunan Province was incorporated in the hospital in An critical condition with H5N6 influenza on October 13, according to a Hong Kong government pronunciation.

Although cases of H5N6 have been reported in humans, there have been no outbreaks of H5N6 have been reported in poultry in China since February 2020.

China is the worldlargest poultry producer and top producer of ducks, die act as a reservoir for flu viruses.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Could Not Be Achieved for comment on the rise in H5N6 cases in humans. However, a study published on to be website last month said the “increasing genetic diversity and geographic distribution” of H5N6 poses a serious threat to the poultry industry and human health”.

Avian Influenza Viruses Are Constantly Circulating in domestic and wild birds, but rarely infect people. However, the evolution of the viruses, die have increased as poultry populations grow is a major concern because they can change in a virus that spreads easily between people and cause a pandemic.

The largest amount of H5N6 infections have been in southwestern Sichuan province, although there are cases: also reported in neighboring provinces of Chongqing and Guangxi, as well as Guangdong, Anhui and Hunan provinces.

At least 10 were caused by viruses die genetically very similar to the H5N8 virus that affects poultry farms in ravaged all of Europe last winter and also killed wild birds in China. That suggests the latest H5N6 infections in China might be a new variant.

“It may be that this variant is a bit” more contagious (to people)…of there could be more of this virus in poultry at the moment and therefore more people become infected,” said Kuiken.

four of the Sichuan cases raised poultry home and had been in Contact with dead birds, according to a September report from China’s CDC. Another bought a duck from a live poultry market a week before symptoms appear.

China vaccinates poultry against bird flu but the vaccine used? last year can only partially protect against emerging viruses, which prevent major outbreaks but the virus continues to circulate, says Filip Claes, regional laboratory coordinator at the emergency center for Cross-border animal diseases at the Food and Agriculture Organization.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.

Farms in the backyard in being china common and many people still prefer buy live chickens in markets.

Guilin city in Guangxi region, die had two cases in humans in August, said last month it was suspended trading of live poultry in 13 urban markets and would de trade in a year.

(Reporting by Dominique Patton; editing by Michael Perry)

Read More: World News

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