A man has been hospitalized in southwestern China after contracting the H5N6 strain of avian flu, Chinese state news media reported on Thursday, a reminder that the world is full of flu viruses even during a coronavirus pandemic.
What is bird flu?
Bird flu is the name for several types of influenza viruses that infect birds. All three major bird flu strains now circulating are categorized as severe: H5N1, which is responsible for the deaths of nearly 450 people in humans since 2003, and H5N2 and H5N8, which are causing more sporadic outbreaks. How do bird flu viruses spread to humans? Some experts say a key feature in the spread of human bird flu viruses is that they are most likely transmitted in bird enclosures — the duck cages, the chicken houses and the eggs and chickens used in so-called backyard farms. Avian influenza viruses can mutate and change relatively quickly. And in poultry and some species of poultry, the ability of a virus to infect a new host species can be a matter of days.
Bird flu facts
Here are some facts about avian flu and what bird flu is. What is avian flu? Most people are exposed to this virus by eating infected poultry. While there is no indication that any person has become ill from eating poultry that is themselves infected with avian flu, the influenza virus can infect humans if they eat contaminated eggs, meat, or living birds or contact with feathers or other materials. Some viruses can also cause disease in cats and other household animals that have had close contact with the infected birds. Is there a bird flu pandemic? No. This year, bird flu has been mostly confined to Asia, where countries have banned poultry trade in response to outbreaks.
The H5N6 bird flu virus
Korean Rumors? Chinese Health Officials Suspect Bird Flu Outbreak in Hunan Province Bird Flu Hits China for the First Time The World Health Organization is warning that a highly lethal strain of bird flu that has killed nine people in China poses a “high risk” for humans, and could become more common.But don’t panic — there is no reason to panic about an outbreak of a virulent strain of bird flu that could spread globally.There have been more than 30 avian influenza outbreaks in China this year, but they all seem to be confined to specific parts of the country. The H5N1 virus has never been reported in humans, but experts have confirmed it is deadly to birds. The H7N9 bird flu virus has killed three people, all in China, according to the Chinese government.
Avian influenza viruses are not just one kind of virus
The H5N6 virus was found in a man in Huangpu, near Shanghai, according to the Xinhua News Agency. The elderly man was infected with the H5N6 strain after tending to ducks, according to the Shanghai Health Bureau. The man is now in stable condition. The strain does not transmit easily from person to person, and public health experts consider it a low risk for humans. But this is the first human case since 2014 in China, and it does show that this particular bird flu strain can cause human infections. “The fact that we have a human case in China is not surprising, given the low level of avian influenza human transmission,” said Dan O’Neil, a professor of veterinary medicine at Kansas State University.
How to prevent the spread of avian influenza infections
Last month, avian influenza was detected in the Hong Kong market, prompting authorities to halt imports of live poultry. But a few health authorities have been allowing poultry that tested negative for the virus to be killed, according to news reports. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that out of 4,735 samples sent for testing, the H7N9 strain has been found in only 35. Of those, 48 have been found positive. The WHO has called the strain an emerging viral fever of the zoonosis type, meaning that it may be transferred from human to human. It is linked to a decrease in the number of wild birds in urban areas in China. We contacted WHO for more information on this recent discovery of H5N6 in China and whether it is alarming.
Teach people how to cook poultry safely for best results
(I guess we are supposed to refer to this bird flu as H5N6, but since most bird flu viruses do not easily spread from human to human, the WHO is calling it a “highly pathogenic avian influenza A(H7N9).” So I’m confused, why does the Chinese report call it H5N6? You can tell a lot about people by the names they call things. And why is that a duck? Why not a chicken? To be fair, they didn’t really call it the H5N6 strain of bird flu. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) refers to it as H5N6. But it is, after all, a bird flu, so we are supposed to treat it that way, don’t we?
Educate and protect those who raise poultry
Cases of avian influenza have appeared in numerous countries since the 1990s. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other groups recommend keeping poultry and other birds away from people. Use sanitizing solutions, disinfect rubber gloves and wash hands after handling live birds. Wash your hands after caring for and/or working in areas where birds are kept. Live birds should never be placed in areas where food is prepared, cooked or stored. Have all your poultry tested for poultry flu before it is slaughtered, the CDC advises.
Ensure that flocks are vaccinated against HPAI avian influenza viruses
According to Xinhua News, a man in Xuancheng, a city in Anhui province, contracted the bird flu virus on Dec. 18 after he butchered a chicken. The man has since recovered from the virus. Anhui is the same province where cases of avian influenza were reported earlier in December. Beijing reports 10 bird flu cases this year, none fatal. The H7N9 strain has killed at least four people this year, and sickened at least 627. The H5N6 strain, which was reported in China for the first time, is considered less severe than the H7N9 strain. According to state media, no human cases of bird flu have been recorded so far this winter, but China continues to track down contaminated poultry. The authorities in Beijing have reported only 10 human cases this winter, none fatal.
Make sure ducks get vaccinated, too
The World Health Organization already counts China among the countries at highest risk of the next pandemic, mostly because of the presence of influenza strains not yet associated with human cases. H5N1, the bird flu strain that is thought to have been responsible for the wiping out of some 60 million people in 2003, has been circulating in poultry for the last decade. That’s still cause for concern because, unlike the pandemic flu strains currently infecting people, it can pass easily between humans. As the world’s pig farmers prepare for a disease that could affect poultry, along with hogs and goats, governments have put in place a number of measures to combat the spread.
More than once we have been asked, “Where do ducks come from?” Ducks don’t come from nowhere, and ducks are one of the wild animal groups that live with us. They don’t live in a “lobotomy world” run by “pack hunting” human beings, who grab only the ducks and the goats and the cows they want for eating. So the question is a natural one to ask. But it is an unavoidable one. It has to be answered if you want to go beyond the fatuous nature of the question itself, and to take an objective look at what it is that it is we ask when we ask it.
The many different trade and aid policies being pursued by China globally have been heavily criticised but can developing countries become more independent or will China’s policy reform?