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World’s first case of human infection with H5N8 bird flu strain reported in Russia

At a time when the world was about to get their routine lives back on track with the development and distribution of the covid-19 vaccine, there seems to be another major threat to human life as Russia reported the first-ever case of bird flu producing virus strain infecting humans.  

The chief of a health consumer watchdog said that the country reported the appearance of strain AH5N8 to the global health body, the World Health Organization. 

Though the Middle East, India, China, Europe, Russia and North Africa reported cases of H5N8 strains of the virus recently, it was seen only in poultry, with no incident of the virus passing to humans from birds.  

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While H5N1, H7N9 and H9N2 strains have earlier spread to humans, this was the first time when the H5N8 strain infected humans. 

Anna Popova, head of Rospotrebnadzor, the health watchdog of Russia told a local news channel Rossiya 24 state TV that the nation informed WHO about this incident “several days ago, just as we became absolutely certain of our results,” adding that there hasn’t been any sign of the virus getting transmitted amongst humans till now.  

The strain is known to be highly contagious in birds, proving fatal for them. Cases of human infection are mostly derived from direct contact with infected dead or alive birds. However, properly cooked poultry, at a temperature beyond 70 degrees, is told to be safe for consumption. 

The outbreak has forced countries to kill their farm birds for preventing further spread. This has also triggered restrictions from countries to import bird meat. The disease gets spread by migratory birds who go to different countries. 

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The watchdog’s head added that the southern part of Russia reported cases of 7 workers infected with the H5N8 strain in December last year when there was an outbreak in a plant. They are told be doing well now as no serious complication was noticed, she added.  

Popova called the incident “an important scientific discovery” adding that “time will tell” regarding the mutation capability of the virus.  

As such, the Vector Institute of Siberia said on Saturday that it will begin the development of a vaccine against H5N8 and other human tests.