An international group of scientists has studied epidemiological data since 2005 and more than 10,000 viral genomes to conclude that the epicentre of H5 avian influenza has shifted from Asia to parts of Africa and Europe. New lineages have emerged from these regions between 2020 and 2022, which evolved by genetic reassortment with low pathogenic viral variants as they spread. According to the authors, who publish their findings in the journal Nature, the increasing persistence of avian influenza in wild bird populations may be driving the evolution and spread of new strains.
According to a statement issued Monday by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Poland has reported that "unusual" cat deaths have been found in several areas of the country. Of the 47 samples tested (46 from cats and one from a caracal, another type of feline), 29 were positive for the avian influenza A(H5N1) virus. The surveillance period for all contacts has now ended and no contacts have shown symptoms. According to WHO, "sporadic A(H5N1) infections of cats have been reported previously, but this is the first report of a large number of infected cats in a large geographical area within a country".
Reactions: a protein is identified that prevents transmission and replication of avian influenza viruses in humans
Although outbreaks of H5N1 avian influenza have reached record numbers in recent years, human infections remain anecdotal. A study published today in Nature identifies a protein responsible for inhibiting the replication of this virus in humans, while 'human' flus are able to evade it. The authors propose that this protein with antiviral activity evolved in primates and consider that resistance or sensitivity to it should be taken into account when assessing the zoonotic potential of avian influenza viruses.
Analysis of the two asymptomatic cases of H5N1 avian influenza detected in Spain in autumn 2022 in workers at a poultry farm in Guadalajara has confirmed the theory that no actual infections occurred, but that both were in contact with genetic material of the virus found in the environment. Spain has recently modified its protocols, according to the analysis published in Eurosurveillance.
Outbreaks of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza have been increasing since 2021, but in recent months have evolved into what is known as a 'global panzootic' affecting all types of wild birds and new continents, but also mammals such as mink and sea lions. At a briefing organised by SMC Germany, in collaboration with SMC UK and SMC Spain, three experts discussed the situation, the level of risk and possible next steps.
The H5N1 virus that is causing an unprecedented epidemic among wild and domestic birds has a very low capacity to infect humans. The three cases where infection has been found have been due to close contact with dust raised during the handling of affected poultry.
On 27 September, the National Microbiology Centre detected a positive H5N1 avian influenza in a worker at a poultry farm in Guadalajara (Castilla-La Mancha). The sample was taken on the 23rd and the affected person remained asymptomatic until he tested negative, according to Animal's Health.
The National Microbiology Centre has confirmed the first positive human case of H5N1 avian influenza detected in Spain, Animal's Health said yesterday. This is the worker of a poultry farm located in the province of Guadalajara who remained asymptomatic and isolated until he tested negative. This is the second case detected in Europe after the UK declared its case in January this year.
In the first months of 2022, avian influenza has hit birds in Spain with unprecedented intensity. All outbreaks are now closed and the epidemiological situation is favourable, but we must not let our guard down. The risk of the virus jumping to humans is considered low.