Wire Service
1 minute read
20 Feb 2021
4:22 pm

Russia says detected first case of H5N8 avian flu in humans


The highly contagious strain is lethal for birds but has never before been reported to have spread to humans.

Russian Healthcare Minister Mikhail Murashko (L) speaks with Russia's Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor) head Anna Popova before a meeting of Prime Minister with government officials on vaccines against Covid-19, in Moscow on February 20, 2021. - Moscow announced on February 20 it had registered its third vaccine against the coronavirus Covid-19 and promised to introduce the jab to the Russian population by March. (Photo by Dmitry Astakhov / Sputnik / AFP)

Russia said Saturday its scientists had detected the first case of transmission of the H5N8 strain of avian flu to humans and had alerted the World Health Organization.

“Information about the world’s first case of transmission of the avian flu (H5N8) to humans has already been sent to the World Health Organization,” the head of Russia’s health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, Anna Popova, said in televised remarks.

The highly contagious strain is lethal for birds but has never before been reported to have spread to humans.

Popova said that scientists at Russia’s Vektor laboratory had isolated genetic material of the strain from seven workers of a poultry farm in southern Russia, where an outbreak was recorded among the birds in December.

The workers did not suffer any serious health consequences, she added.

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Popova praised “the important scientific discovery,” saying “time will tell” if the virus can further mutate.

“The discovery of these mutations when the virus has not still acquired an ability to transmit from human to human gives us all, the entire world, time to prepare for possible mutations and react in an adequate and timely fashion,” Popova said.

Located in Koltsovo outside the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, the Vektor State Virology and Biotechnology Center has developed one of Russia’s several coronavirus vaccines.

In the Soviet era the top-secret lab conducted secret biological weapons research and still stockpiles viruses ranging from Ebola to smallpox.

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