On December 7th, the World Health Organization released a report detailing two laboratory-confirmed cases of human Avian Influenza A (H5N6) virus infection. The WHO was notified of the infections by the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China, which found the two cases in the Hunan and Guangxi provinces. The two infected individuals were a 47-year-old woman, and a 30-year-old female, both of which were admitted to hospitals in critical condition. For the latter case, investigators have learned that the woman came in contact with dead poultry, though the investigations are ongoing for both cases.
In response to the two cases, the Chinese government has enacted several measures to prevent a possible epidemic. These include collecting samples from the two reported cases for further laboratory analysis, and carefully treating the two existing cases, while expanding investigations into causes of the cases. The investigation is currently focused on finding and monitoring family members and other close contacts of the two infected individuals. In addition, China is increasingly scrutinizing pneumonia cases tied to unknown causes, along with those associated with influenza virus infection. While the WHO is considering the risk for international spread of this influenza strain low, they, along with the Chinese government, will closely monitor the existing cases, while remaining vigilant in the search for new ones.
Ahmed Mustafa (’18)