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In December 2021, Two People Died of Bird Flu in China: Reports

In December 2021, Two People Died of Bird Flu in China: Reports

Representative photo: Laura Gil Martinez (IAEA)/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

New Delhi: Two people died of bird flu in mainland China – where two strains of the avian influenza virus infected as many as nine people in late December 2021, according to reports.

Five infections were caused by the H5N6 strain of the virus and all the patients developed severe illness. Two of them have since died while two more are in critical condition and another in serious condition, according to Forbes.

The other strain, H9N2, has infected four people – also in mainland China. All the patients are minors and have mild illnesses, according to Outbreak News Today.

Forbes reported that human infections of the H5N6 strain are extremely rare and that the human immune system doesn’t know how to respond to its infection. It can “end up firing in random directions, potentially causing more damage than good,” the report said, adding that this is why “bad outcomes and death” are seen more frequently than after infection by human strains of influenza.

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP), which is under the purview of the Hong Kong Department of Health, has advised people to avoid visiting wet markets, live-poultry markets and farms, and practice hand and personal hygiene precautions when in the presence of backyard poultry. The centre also said eggs and poultry should be cooked thoroughly.

Forbes added that the outbreak should not lead to panic, however, because there is no evidence that the H5N6 virus can spread from one infected person to another. “Three of the five patients had confirmed exposure to live domestic poultry,” it wrote. “One had exposure to dead poultry. Investigators are in the midst of confirming whether the 28 year old male had exposure to any type of poultry.”

Also Read: How Can We Build an Early Warning System for Avian Flu in India?

Reuters reported that as of November 2021, China had reported 21 cases of human infections with the H5N6 subtype in that year – which is more than in the whole of 2020.

Meanwhile, the four cases of infection by the H9N2 strain were reported by the health bureau in Macao. All the patients, who were mildly ill, had contact with poultry or had visited live poultry markets before the onset of symptoms, according to Outbreak News Today.

Infection by this strain of the avian influenza is also extremely rare: since 1998, China has reported only 87 laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection. The report asid that most human cases of H9N2 avian flu have only had mild symptoms and no evidence of human-to-human transmission. Infections occur through contact with infected poultry or contaminated environments.

Also in November last year, several outbreaks of severe bird flu were reported in Europe and Asia. Such outbreaks spread usually result in the culling of tens of millions of birds.

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