More human infections of H5N6 bird flu in China, experts are worried

Brown chickens behing a fence
Chicken farm, photo: Nighthawk Shoots on Unsplash

China reported two new cases of humans infected with the H5N6 strain of bird flu. The country is dealing with a rise in human infections of bird flu.

In 2020, there were five reported cases of humans infected with the H5N6 strain of avian influenza. So far this year, there have been more than 20 cases reported.

A 52-year-old man from the city of Dongguan tested positive for H5N6 bird flu, the Guangdong Provincial Health Commission said on Thursday. They did not give details on his condition or how he got infected.

A 66-year-old poultry farmer was infected in Yongzhou in Hunan Province. He developed symptoms on September 25 and was admitted to hospital two days later.

The Center for Health Protection (CHP) of Hong Kong said in a statement that it’s closely monitoring human bird flu infection cases in mainland China.

“Travellers to the Mainland or other affected areas must avoid visiting wet markets, live poultry markets or farms,” the CHP said.

“They should be alert to the presence of backyard poultry [chickens, ducks] when visiting relatives and friends. They should also avoid purchasing live or freshly slaughtered poultry, and avoid touching poultry/birds or their droppings,” they added.

The rise in the number of people infected with bird flu in China is concerning experts.

“The increase in human cases in China this year is of concern. It’s a virus that causes high mortality,” Thijs Kuiken, professor of comparative pathology at Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, said.

“It could be that this variant is a little more infectious (to people)…or there could be more of this virus in poultry at the moment, and that’s why more people are getting infected,” Kuiken said.

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