February 22 (The Hill) – Russia on Saturday announced that it has identified the first cases of H5N8 avian influenza in humans, according to multiple reports.
Anna Popova, the country’s public health chief, said in televised comments that seven cases were detected in workers at a poultry farm in southern Russia, Bloomberg News reported. Authorities have reported information on the cases to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Popova said that the workers had mild cases and were recovered. The poultry farm was the site of an outbreak among birds in December, Bloomberg noted.
“It is not transmitted from person to person. But only time will tell how soon future mutations will allow it to overcome this barrier,” she said, according to the news outlet. “The discovery of this strain now gives us all, the whole world, time to prepare for possible mutations and the possibility to react in a timely way and develop test systems and vaccines.”
In a statement to The Hill, WHO said it “has been notified by the Russian Federation about human infection with avian influenza H5N8 through International Health Regulation mechanisms.”
“Preliminary information indicates that the reported cases were workers exposed to bird flocks. They were asymptomatic and no onward human to human transmission was reported. If confirmed, this would be the first time H5N8 has infected people,” the statement said. “We are in discussion with national authorities to gather more information and assess the public health impact of this event.”
Reuters noted that outbreaks of the strain have occurred in Europe, China, the Middle East and North Africa in recent months but only in poultry.