Why Are Pathogenic Avian Flu Viruses Spreading?
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a new assessment of the risk associated with the highly pathogenic avian influenza A(H5N6) virus on November 19, 2021.
There have been 26 A(H5N6) human infections reported in 2021.
And of those reports, 20 were confirmed after June 21.
The rise in A(H5N6) infections may reflect the spread of these viruses in poultry and an increased diagnostic capacity and awareness for respiratory illness etiology amongst human health systems in China and elsewhere.
The WHO stated: The A(H5N6) viruses have been found on environmental surfaces in live poultry markets in China, although the true extent of their circulation in birds is unclear. Mitigation steps to reduce human exposure to potentially infected birds should be considered to reduce the risk of additional zoonotic infections.
The WHO is recommending that countries, particularly National Influenza Centers and other influenza laboratories associated with the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS), remain vigilant for the possibility of zoonotic infections.
All unsubtypable influenza-positive samples should be expedited for shipment to a WHO Collaborating Center or H5 Reference Laboratory of GISRS.
Further antigenic characterization of A(H5N6) viruses, notably concerning similarities with existing CVVs, and generation of specific reagents are being prioritized at WHO Collaborating Centers in collaboration with veterinary sector colleagues.
Additional data on the prevalence and genetic and antigenic characteristics of A(H5N6) viruses in birds and other animals is needed.
WHO will continue to work closely with FAO, OIE, and OFFLU to monitor the avian influenza situation and A(H5) virus evolution and provide timely updated risk assessments.
In the U.S, the CDC considers the risk to the U.S. public's health from HPAI H5 or H7 virus outbreaks in wild birds or poultry in the United States to be 'minimual.'
And annual 'flu shots' are not effective against influenza A(H5N6) viruses.
The National Influenza Vaccine Modernization Strategy 2020-2030 outlines a vision for the U.S. to be highly responsive and effective at reducing the impact of seasonal and pandemic influenza viruses.
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