Russia on Saturday said the country’s scientists have detected the first case of transmission of the H5N8 strain of bird flu to humans, reported BBC. Russia’s health watchdog said the case had been reported to the World Health Organization.
Officials said seven workers at a poultry plant in the south of the country had been infected following an outbreak there in December. “All seven people... are now feeling well,” said Anna Popova, head of Russia’s consumer health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor. She added that adequate measures had been quickly taken to stop the spread of infection.
The highly contagious avian flu strain is lethal for birds but has never before been reported to have spread to humans. Popova, however, said there was no sign of transmission of the virus between humans so far.
She also 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,” the Russian official said, according to AFP.
Earlier this year, India, too grappled with the outbreak of avian influenza in the country, with the flu spreading to as many as 14 states in January. In India, the disease spreads mostly through migratory birds entering the country during the winter season.
While H5N1 poses no apparent threat to humans, its highly pathogenic strains can be deadly to domestic poultry and sometimes, wild birds. Cases of human bird flu infections are due to contact with infected poultry or surfaces that are contaminated with infected bird excretions such as saliva, nasal secretions or feces.