WHO warns Vietnam to guard against H5N8 bird flu strain

By Le Nga, Nguyen Quy   March 3, 2021 | 04:31 am PT
WHO warns Vietnam to guard against H5N8 bird flu strain
Chickens are seen at a farm in Hanoi, Vietnam April 24, 2018. Photo by Reuters/Kham.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Vietnam to remain vigilant after confirmation of the first human infection cases related to the H5N8 bird flu strain.

Russian authorities have reported seven poultry farm workers aged 29 to 60 years infected with the A(H5N8) strain of avian influenza, also known as bird flu. This is the first reported detection of this strain of avian flu in humans, WHO stated.

All seven individuals worked at a poultry processing plant and were therefore exposed to infected birds. None of the infectees have presented respiratory symptoms and remain healthy, according to WHO, which added there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission of avian influenza H5N8, and that the risk of an outbreak among humans remains very low.

The strain is a subtype of the influenza A virus that causes flu-like symptoms in wild birds and poultry. Outbreaks of the H5N8 strain have been reported in Russia, Europe, China, the Middle East, and North Africa in recent months.

In Vietnam, the monitoring program of the Department of Animal Health has not detected the circulating strain of H5N8. However, from 2021, the department would increase testing in the national avian influenza surveillance program.

Dr. Pawin Padungtod, senior technical coordinator of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Vietnam, said technically, the H5N8 virus strain shares antigenic characteristics with the H5N6 strain circulating in Vietnam.

Therefore, the current avian flu vaccine used in Vietnam still works against the H5N8 strain.

To prevent H5N8 influenza infection, FAO and WHO recommended breeders strengthen biosecurity measures in the breeding area, comply with poultry vaccination schedules, report unusual cases of poultry deaths and not allow visitors to enter farms.

The two avian flu virus strains, H5N6 and H5N1, that have been detected in the country, spread from poultry to humans through contact with infected feces or other bodily fluids, and can prove fatal.

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