Russian authorities, at a press conference held last Saturday (20), brought a warning. In the country, the first known cases of human contamination by a virus called H5N8 were identified. The microorganism would have been transmitted from birds of 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 Russia’s Federal Surveillance Service for the Protection of Consumer Rights and Human Welfare, indicated that strains of the detected agent were isolated by scientists at the Vector Institute. So far, there is no evidence that H5N8 is spread 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 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 human-to-human transmission capacity gives us all, worldwide, time to prepare for possible mutations and react in an appropriate and timely manner,” said Popova, noting that researchers a series of analyses will be dedicated.
A large part of the cases of avian flu spread occurs 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 UK. When cooked, animal meats are generally harmless.
As for the current 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”, he highlighted, noting that the country sent data to the WHO as soon as the certainty of the problem was established.
Among the institute’s scientists’ plans, the development of an effective vaccine against the microorganism is already planned, indicated the RIA Novosti, one of the biggest news agencies in Russia.