A new bird flu jumps to humans. So far, it’s not a problem.

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April 21, 2021 at 1:00 pm Updated April 21, 2021 at 1:01 pm  By JAMES GORMANThe New York Times

When a bird flu virus struck a major poultry farm in Russia earlier this year, it was a reminder that the coronavirus causing the pandemic was not the only dangerous virus out there.

The authorities quickly tested the birds and moved into high gear, killing 800,000 chickens, disposing of the carcasses and cleaning the farm to stop the potential spread to other chicken farms. But they were also concerned for humans.

They tested the birds and sequenced the virus, determining that it was the H5N8 strain of avian flu, highly dangerous to both wild and domestic birds. It is established in Asia and has been increasingly causing deadly outbreaks in birds in Europe. H5N8 viruses have infected some poultry flocks in the United States, but the viruses come from a different though related lineage of virus, distinct from the current H5N8 viruses in Asia and Europe. Flu viruses combine and mutate frequently in unpredictable ways.

In the short period from Dec. 25 to Jan. 14, more than 7 million birds were lost to H5N8 outbreaks in Europe and Asia. Europe alone had 135 outbreaks among poultry and 35 among wild birds. Of course, to put the numbers in context, humans consume about 65 billion chickens each year, and one estimate puts the number of chickens on the globe at any one time at 23 billion.

As damaging as H5N8 has been to birds, it had never infected people. Until February. Russian health authorities also tested about 200 of the people involved in the cleanup of the farm in Astrakhan, using nasal swabs and later blood tests for antibodies. They reported that for the first time, H5N8 had jumped to people. Seven of the workers appeared to have been infected with the virus, although none of them became ill. Only one of those seven cases, however, was confirmed by genetically sequencing the virus.

Nonetheless, the potential danger of the new virus and its jump to humans set off alarm bells for Dr. Daniel R. Lucey, a physician and a specialist in pandemics at Georgetown University.ADVERTISINGSkip AdSkip AdSkip Ad

He began writing about the Astrakhan event in a blog for other infectious disease experts as soon as it was publicized. He reported that during a television interview, a Russian public health official said the H5N8 virus was likely to evolve into human-to-human transmission. That possibility was frightening.

“The WHO finally put out a report Feb. 26,” he said.

But it did not frame the event as particularly alarming because the virus was not causing human disease, and the report judged the risk of human-to-human transmission as low, despite the Russian official’s comment.

To Lucey, no one else seemed to be taking the infection of humans with H5N8 as “of any concern.” He added, “I think it’s of concern.”

Other scientists said they were not as worried.

Dr. Florian Krammer, a flu researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said he was more concerned about other avian flu viruses like H5N1 that have already shown themselves to be dangerous to people. Another avian influenza virus, H7N9, infected people for the first time in 2013. There have been more than 1,500 confirmed cases and more than 600 deaths since then. Since 2017 there have been only three confirmed cases, and the virus does not jump easily from person to person.

It is always possible that any virus can evolve human-to-human transmission, as well as become more dangerous. But H5N8 would have both hurdles to jump. Compared to other viral threats, Krammer said, “I’m not worried.”

Dr. Richard J. Webby, a flu specialist at the St. Jude Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and director of the WHO’s Collaborating Centre for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds, said that all of the H5 viruses are of concern because some of them have infected and killed people. But, he said, “They all have the same sort of binding capacity to human cells, which is limited,” he said. Flu viruses use a slightly different way to attach to cells in birds than to cells in humans and being good at one usually means not being good at the other.ADVERTISINGSkip Ad

Webby also said that while seven infections would certainly be of concern, only one infection has been confirmed. The tests of the other six involved nasal swabs and blood antibody tests. In people with no symptoms, he said, nasal swabs can simply indicate that they had breathed in virus. That would not mean it had infected them.

Blood antibody tests also have a potential for error, he said, and may not be able to distinguish exposure to one flu virus from another.

Nor did he see any scientific basis for suggesting that H5N8 is more likely than any other bird flu to evolve human-to-human transmission. But any virus could evolve that ability.

Lucey said he was heartened to see that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had prepared a candidate vaccine for H5N8 before it had infected humans. Candidate vaccines are simply first steps in planning for potential problems, and have not been through any testing. They exist for many viruses.

“Humans should be routinely tested those for the virus, right at the time of the outbreak in birds,” Lucey said.

He favors the protocol followed in Astrakhan and argues that for any outbreak among birds, public health authorities should test people who are exposed to sick birds with nasopharyngeal swabs and an antibody test, followed by other antibody tests a few weeks later.

An upcoming editorial in the journal Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease also takes up the Astrakhan incident and calls for increased monitoring of all H5 viruses.This story was originally published at nytimes.com. Read it here.

Flock of flamingos finally taste freedom after four months in bird flu ‘lockdown’

  • Watch the moment the flamingos are released.

A flock of flamingos at a zoo in Cumbria have had their first taste of freedom after being kept inside for four months.

The 37 ‘Greater Flamingos’ at the Lake District Wildlife Park near Bassenthwaite were released after being cooped up since November, because of the threat of bird flu.

Since December last year, poultry keepers have been asked to keep their birds indoors to protect them against the virus, after a cases emerged across the UK.

The flamingos were allowed out of their indoor enclosure on Thursday morning, with one excited bird paving the way for others to join him in the park’s pond for the first bath in months.

Head keeper Richard Robinson said: “It’s fantastic. As part of my job I have the daily care of the flamingos.

“Having them shut in since mid-November, it was time they came out so thankfully, with the easing of the restrictions for the avian influenza, we were able to let them out today and it’s fantastic seeing them enjoy a bit of blue sky.”

The park is now gearing up to re-open to visitors later this month.

World’s 1st case of human infection with bird flu in Russia

Russia has confirmed the first case of human infection with the avian influenza A(H5N8) virus in the world, a Russian sanitary official announced on Saturday

Photo Courtesy: IANS
Photo Courtesy: IANS
IANS

IANS

Published: 21 Feb 2021, 10:30 AMEngagement: 653

Russia has confirmed the first case of human infection with the avian influenza A(H5N8) virus in the world, a Russian sanitary official announced on Saturday.

Scientists have isolated the genetic material of this bird flu virus in seven workers of a poultry farm in south Russia, where an outbreak among fowls was reported in December, said Anna Popova, head of the country’s consumer rights and human well-being watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, the Xinhua news agency reported.https://39d424e0309cb9a1dad10b1a91f9f40b.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

All the necessary measures were taken immediately to protect humans and animals, and the infection did not spread further, she told a briefing.

All of the seven people who were infected are now feeling well, with only mild clinical symptoms, Popova said.

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Scientists say an apocalyptic bird flu could wipe out half of humanity

By Paula Froelich

Apocalyptic bird flu could wipe out half of humanity: scientists (nypost.com)

May 30, 2020 | 11:54am | UpdatedEnlarge Image

Chickens roost at a poultry farm in Taizhou, China.

Chickens roost at a poultry farm in Taizhou, China.Getty Images

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BIRD FLU

Russian farmworkers first humans to contract new form of bird flu

France to kill 600,000 poultry in effort to contain bird flu

Bird flu spreads to 10th Japanese prefecture

China reports bird flu outbreak near epicenter of coronavirus

The coronavirus has killed over 365,000 people worldwide in just five months — but that’s nothing compared to what could be coming if humans don’t clean up their act when it comes to chickens.

In his new book, “How to Survive a Pandemic,” Dr. Michael Gregor, a scientist and physician who once testified for Oprah Winfrey in her “meat defamation” trial, warns that an apocalyptic virus emanating from overcrowded and unsanitary chicken farms has the potential to wipe out half of humanity.

Greger, a vegan, writes that “In the ‘hurricane scale’ of epidemics, COVID-19, with a death rate of around half of one percent, rates a measly Category Two, possibly a Three. … The Big One, the typhoon to end all typhoons, will be 100 times worse when it comes, a Category Five producing a fatality rate of one in two. … Civilization as we know it would cease.”

While environmentalists warned earlier this month that the world would face another stronger epidemic if we continue to have contact with wildlife, Gregor places the blame squarely on chickens.

“With pandemics explosively spreading a virus from human to human, it’s never a matter of if, but when,” Greger writes.

Citing the bird-based Spanish Flu outbreak of 1920, and the H5N1 outbreak in Hong Kong in 1997, Gregor writes, “the worry is that the virus never stands still but is always mutating. … This is the monster lurking in the undergrowth, the one that makes epidemiologists shudder.”

SEE ALSO

Scientists warn of deadlier future pandemics if we don’t stop this now

The Hong Kong outbreak, which originated in a bird market, “started with a three-year-old boy in Hong Kong, whose sore throat and tummy ache turned into a disease that curdled his blood and killed him within a week from acute respiratory and organ failure.” While only 18 people contracted that flu – a third of them died.

During that pandemic, the government killed 1.3 million chickens in an attempt to eliminate the virus – but there have since been two more outbreaks between 2003 and 2009 outside of China.

But with over 24 billion chickens on earth feeding the world, what can be done?

Gregor writes we have to change the entire system – away from large scale farms where chickens are fed antibiotics and are crammed together and pass diseases from one to another easily to smaller, free-range farms … and eventually not eating chickens or ducks at all.

“The pandemic cycle could theoretically be broken for good,” he writes. “Bird flu could be grounded.”

But until then, he warns, “as long as there is poultry, there will be pandemics. In the end, it may be us or them.”

Russia warns of human-to-human transmission of new bird flu mutation

Montana State News Bureau


By Yaron Steinbuch

https://nypost.com/2021/03/12/russia-warns-of-human-to-human-transmission-of-bird-flu-strain/

March 12, 2021 | 12:25pm | UpdatedVideo Player is loading.https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.447.1_en.html#goog_1774234252 

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Russian farmworkers first humans to contract new form of bird flu

France to kill 600,000 poultry in effort to contain bird flu

Bird flu spreads to 10th Japanese prefecture

Scientists warn apocalyptic bird flu that makes coronavirus look like a sniffle

A mutating strain of bird flu that has emerged in Russia has “a fairly high degree of probability” of human-to-human transmission, the head of the country’s health watchdog warned in a report.

Anna Popova, who heads Rospotrebnadzor, made the worrying prediction almost a month after scientists detected the first case of H5N8 transmission to humans at a southern Russia poultry farm, the Moscow Times reported.

Humans can get infected with other bird and swine flu subtypes, but the H5N8 strain — which is lethal for birds — has never previously been reported to have spread among people.

“This is likely to happen. Colleagues say that the mutation is continuing very actively,” Popova said, adding that Rospotrebnadzor and the Siberia-based Vektor state research lab have time to develop a test kit and a vaccine, and then to “monitor the situation.”

“If we won’t need it, it’ll be a lucky break. But if necessary, we’ll be ready,” Russia’s chief sanitary doctor told Russian news agency TASS.

Russian Chief Sanitary Physician Anna Popova
Russian chief sanitary physician Anna Popova says a spread of the strain among humans is “likely to happen.”

“In other words, we’ll be able to warn the entire world community of the threat.”

Last month, Popova reported the first case of the H5N8 strain passing to humans from birds to the World Health Organization, according to Reuters.

bird flu Russia
The H5N8 strain, which is lethal for birds, has never previously been reported to have spread among people.

In addition to Russia and Europe, outbreaks of H5N8 have been reported in recent months in China, the Middle East and North Africa — but so far only in poultry.

Other strains of avian flu, such as H5N1, H7N9 and H9N2, have been known to spread to humans.

bird Russia
Outbreaks of H5N8 have been reported in recent months in China, the Middle East and North Africa.

Seven workers at a Russian poultry plant had been infected with the H5N8 mutation in an outbreak at the plant in December, Popova said, adding that everyone quickly recovered.

“This situation did not develop further,” she said in late February.

Industrial animal farming is a ticking timebomb

MARCH 7TH, 2021 8:00 PM

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Sir– Industrial animal farming, more commonly known as factory farming, has, according to the UN, caused the majority of infectious diseases in humans in the past decade.

In Russia, scientists have detected the first case of transmission of the H5N8 strain of avian flu to humans and have alerted the World Health Organisation.

Scientists isolated the strain’s genetic material from seven workers at a poultry farm in southern Russia.

The workers did not suffer any serious health consequences.

While the highly contagious strain is lethal for birds, it has never before been reported to have spread to humans.

Humans can get infected with avian and swine influenza viruses, such as bird flu subtypes A(H5N1) and A(H7N9) and swine flu subtypes such as A(H1N1).

The more widely known strain of avian influenza is the H1N1, which is responsible for all the major flu outbreaks, like the 1918 Spanish flu and the 2009 Swine flu outbreak.LETTERS

The H5N8 is a sub-type of the influenza A virus that causes flu-like symptoms in birds and mammals.

In recent months, outbreaks of the H5N8 strain have been reported in Russia, Europe, China, the Middle East and North Africa but only ever in poultry – until, that is, this latest news from Russia.

There is a timebomb called Climate Change with which we are all familiar.

There is another, less talked-about timebomb that is ticking just as loudly: that timebomb is factory farming. Yet no government that I know of, anywhere in the world, is listening to it. Why is this? 

Gerry Boland,

Keadue,

Co Roscommon

Factory farming and global health

about 19 hours agoShare to FacebookShare to TwitterShare to Email App

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/factory-farming-and-global-health-1.4497323

Sir, – Industrial animal farming, more commonly known as factory farming, has, according to the UN, caused the majority of infectious diseases in humans in the past decade.

In Russia, scientists have detected the first case of transmission of the H5N8 strain of avian flu to humans and have alerted the World Health Organisation. Scientists isolated the strain’s genetic material from seven workers at a poultry farm in southern Russia. The workers did not suffer any serious health consequences. While the highly contagious strain is lethal for birds, it has never before been reported to have spread to humans.

Humans can get infected with avian and swine influenza viruses, such as bird flu subtypes A(H5N1) and A(H7N9) and swine-flu subtypes such as A(H1N1). The more widely known strain of avian influenza is the H1N1, which is responsible for all the major flu outbreaks, like the 1918 Spanish flu and the 2009 swine-flu outbreak. The H5N8 is a sub-type of the influenza A virus that causes flu-like symptoms in birds and mammals. In recent months, outbreaks of the H5N8 strain have been reported in Russia, Europe, China, the Middle East and north Africa but only ever in poultry – until, that is, this latest news from Russia.

There is a timebomb called climate change with which we are all familiar. There is another, less talked-about timebomb that is ticking just as loudly, factory farming. Yet no government that I know of, anywhere in the world, is listening to it. Why is this? – Yours, etc,

GERRY BOLAND,

Keadue,

Co Roscommon.

First Human Cases of Bird Flu Strain Detected in Russia

6 hours ago

By Chelsea Pinkham

An industrial chicken farm.

Lead Image Source : pipicato/Shutterstock

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The first cases of H5N8 bird flu have been detected in humans, and although there is no known evidence of transmission person-to-person, it serves as an unnerving reminder of disease outbreaks on crowded, unsanitary factory farms. This strain of bird flu is extremely contagious and lethal to birds, but the seven affected human patients in Russia have been reported as asymptomatic. The cases all occurred in farmworkers exposed to birds on the job.https://www.youtube.com/embed/6bv_LHc8Ujk?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent

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Anna Popova, head of Russia’s Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing, stated that the early warning “gives us all, the entire world, time to prepare for possible mutations and react in an adequate and timely fashion.”

Disease outbreaks on modern farms are not uncommon, as genetically similar animals kept in close quarters are likely to spread illness fast. Unsanitary conditions can cause animals to fall into respiratory distress easily, and dead animals can serve as vectors for an array of illnesses. Drug-resistant bacteria known as “superbugs” have become an increasingly worrisome issue on farms across the world, as animals living in subpar conditions often require antibiotics to stay alive.

This in-depth 2016 Scientific American article explains why crowded modern farms are host to a plethora of contagious ailments, from MRSA to enterococci, a group of bacteria known to cause over 20,000 infections in humans annually. As the article states, in 2014 pharmaceutical companies sold nearly 21 million pounds of medically important antibiotics for use in animals raised for food, over three times the amount sold for use in humans.

“Resistant bacteria that food animals carry can get into a variety of foods,” states the Center for Disease Control on an informational webpage about antibiotic use in farmed animals. “Meat and poultry can become contaminated when the animals are slaughtered and processed. Fruits and vegetables can become contaminated when resistant bacteria from animal feces (poop) spreads to them through the environment, such as through irrigation water or fertilizers…illnesses that were once easily treatable with antibiotics are becoming more difficult to cure and more expensive to treat.” Advertisement

In 2017 the World Health Organization issued a statement advising that commercial farming operations stop routinely administering antibiotics to healthy animals, citing an increasing threat to human health. “Over-use and misuse of antibiotics in animals and humans is contributing to the rising threat of antibiotic resistance,” the statement reads. “Some types of bacteria that cause serious infections in humans have already developed resistance to most or all of the available treatments, and there are very few promising options in the research pipeline.”

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been a sobering reality check to the risk of disease outbreaks and serves as a call to action for humanity. As long as animals exist on crowded and unsanitary factory farms, antibiotic resistance and disease spread will remain a dire public health risk. The evidence is clear; raising animals for food by the masses is deeply detrimental to both animal welfare and human health, and only a drastic food system reform can bring about change.Advertisement

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Russia reports first human cases of H5N8 bird flu

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-20/russia-reports-first-cases-of-h5n8-bird-flu-in-humans-kldwj8sh

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Published 1 day ago

 

on February 20, 2021

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Seven people at a poultry farm in southern Russia have been infected with H5N8 bird flu, officials say, making it the first time that the highly pathogenic virus has been found in humans. There is no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

“Today, I want to inform you about an important scientific discovery made by scientists at the Vector scientific center,” Anna Popova, the head of Russia’s consumer health watchdog, said on Saturday. “The first cases of human infection with [avian influenza A(H5N8)] have been laboratory confirmed.”

The virus was found in seven employees at a poultry farm in southern Russia, where outbreaks of H5N8 were reported in the bird population in December 2020. Popova described the human cases as “mild,” according to the Interfax news agency.

“The virus can be transmitted from birds to humans, it has overcome the interspecies barrier,” Popova said. “As of today, this variant of the influenza virus is not being transmitted from person to person. Only time will tell how quickly future mutations will allow it to overcome this barrier.”


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Popova said the discovery will help researchers prepare for the possibility of human-to-human transmission of the H5N8 virus. Detailed information about the cases has been submitted to the World Health Organization.

H5N8 has been found in birds since at least 1983 and outbreaks have occurred frequently since 2014, when it was found in breeding ducks in South Korea. Numerous outbreaks have been reported during the past 6 months, including in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, China, Japan, and South Korea.

“The H5N8 type influenza is regarded as pathogenic and is currently manifesting itself in a variety of ways, from asymptomatic and sub-clinical to highly lethal in some populations,” the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said in an update about recent outbreaks.

Human cases of H5 viruses are rare but are typically found in those who have contact with sick or dead birds.

239 human cases of H5N1 bird flu have been reported in China and Southeast Asia since 2003, killing 134 people, according to WHO. More recently, two people in China were infected with the H5N6 variant in January, causing the death of a three-year-old girl.

“Community awareness of the potential dangers for human health is essential to prevent infection in humans,” WHO said in a public health assessment for H5 viruses. “Surveillance should be continued to detect human cases and early changes in transmissibility and infectivity of the viruses.”

Algeria declares state of emergency over bird flu

OIE detected bird flu hotspot in Ain Fakroun town Tuesday

Abdurrazzak Abdullah   |10.02.2021Algeria declares state of emergency over bird fluFILE PHOTO

ALGIERS, Algeria

Algeria declared a state of emergency after World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)’s announcement of H5N8 bird flu outbreak in the country’s east, said Minister of Agriculture Abdelhamid Hamdani Tuesday. 

In a press conference, Hamdani said: “The source of this virus is migratory birds and we [Algeria] have put all regions on alert in anticipation of any emergency.”

He stressed that “the epidemic was contained in Ain Fakroun town which appeared in there.”

On Tuesday, OIE detected a bird flu hotspot in Ain Fakroun town of Oum El Bouaghi city.

Laboratory analyses revealed the spread of bird flu in the town, which infected 51,200 chickens before isolating the town.

The risk of humans potentially contracting the highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu virus cannot be excluded, although the likelihood is low, according to the World Health Organization.

*Bassel Barakat contributed to this report from Ankara

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/algeria-declares-state-of-emergency-over-bird-flu/2139509