Russian authorities, at a press conference held last Saturday (20), brought an alert. In the country, the first known cases of human contamination by a virus called H5N8 were identified. The microorganism was reportedly transmitted from birds in a poultry farm to seven employees of the institution in December 2020, a period in which there was an outbreak of avian flu there.
Anna Popova, head of the Federal Service for the Protection of Consumer Rights and Human Welfare in Russia, indicated that strains of the detected agent were isolated by scientists at the Vector Institute. For now, there is no evidence that H5N8 spreads among people.
According to a WHO representative, despite the event, the infected remained asymptomatic – and, if the variety is confirmed, this will be the first time that something like this has occurred with H5N8. Popova stresses that all possible attention is needed to prevent new scenarios similar to the one created by Sars-CoV-2, responsible for covid-19, from starting.
“The discovery at a time when the virus has not yet acquired the capacity for human-to-human transmission gives all of us, the whole world, time to prepare for possible mutations and to react in an appropriate and timely manner,” said Popova, stressing that researchers will undertake a series of analyzes.
Most of the cases of spread of avian influenza occur from secretions expelled by infected animals, such as saliva or feces, even present on surfaces. In 2014, an outbreak of H5N8 hit poultry on farms in Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. When cooked, the meat of the animals generally does not present any danger.
As for the event, Popova explains that discussions on the topic and the assessment of its impacts on public health are already underway. “The situation has not evolved beyond what we already know,” she said, stressing that the country sent data to WHO as soon as the problem was established.
Among the plans of the institute’s scientists is already planned to develop an effective vaccine against the microorganism, said RIA Novosti, one of the largest news agencies in Russia.