The Russian government has reported it’s first case of a strain of bird flu virus named AH5N8 found to have passed to humans for the first time to the World Health Organization (WHO).
This was made known by the head of a health consumer watchdog, Anna Popova.
Russia reported the case to the WHO “several days ago, just as we became absolutely certain of our results,”
Rospotrebnadzor, told Rossiya 24 state TV on Saturday. There was no sign of transmission between humans so far.
Popova however revealed that seven workers at a poultry plant in Russia’s south had been infected with the H5N8 strain during an outbreak at the plant in December.
She explained further that the workers did not suffer any serious health consequences.
Outbreaks of the H5N8 strain have been reported in Russia, Europe, China, the Middle East and North Africa in recent months but only in poultry. Other strains – H5N1, H7N9 and H9N2 – have been known to spread to humans.
The highly contagious strain is lethal for birds but has never before been reported to have spread to humans.
The majority of human bird flu infections have been associated with direct contact with infected live or dead poultry, though properly cooked food is considered to be safe.
Bird flu outbreaks often prompt poultry plants to kill their birds to prevent the virus from spreading, and avoid importing countries having to impose trade restrictions.
Popova praised “the important scientific discovery,” saying “time will tell” if the virus can further mutate.
Siberia’s Vector Institute said on Saturday it would start developing human tests and a vaccine against H5N8, RIA news agency reported.
Located in Koltsovo outside the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, the institute has developed one of Russia’s several coronavirus vaccines.