Russia has announced on Saturday that it has discovered the first case of transmission of the H5N8 strain of avian flu from birds to humans.
The country has immediately informed the World Health Organisation about its latest discovery.
Outbreaks of the H5N8 strain have been reported in Russia, Europe, China, the Middle East and North Africa in recent months but only in poultry. Other strains, H5N1, H7N9 and H9N2, have been known to spread to humans.
In televised remarks, the head of Russia’s health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, Anna Popova, said scientists at the Vektor laboratory had isolated the strain’s genetic material from seven workers at a poultry farm in southern Russia, where an outbreak was recorded among the birds in December. She added that there was no sign of transmission between humans so far, she added.
“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,” Popova said.
The highly contagious strain is lethal for birds but has never before been reported to have spread to humans.
Popova commended the Russian scientists for their timely discovery of the flu and said “time will tell” if the virus can further mutate.
She stated, “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 WHO confirmed that Russia had notified it about the new discovery.
“We are in discussion with national authorities to gather more information and assess the public health impact of this event,” a spokesman said.
Siberia’s Vector Institute said on Saturday it would start developing human tests and a vaccine against H5N8, RIA news agency reported