China bird flu outbreak: 19 human cases of H5N6 avian influenza linked to wet market

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Two people in mainland China were rushed to the hospital after testing positive for the H5N6 bird flu, as officials bring the number of cases detected so far this year to 19. The first of these cases is a 28-year-old man from Puyang in Henan Province, who developed symptoms on March 18 after exposure to live poultry. According to a statement from the Hong Kong Health Department, the man was hospitalized the next day and remains to be in a critical condition.

The second case was detected in a 53-year-old woman from Zhenjiang City in Jiangsu Province, who fell ill on March 24 after visiting a live poultry market.

The woman was admitted to a hospital two days later and is still in critical condition.

The NHS states: “Bird flu is spread by close contact with an infected bird (dead or alive).”

This includes touching infected birds, their droppings or beddings, and can also occur as a result of killing or preparing the infected poultry for cooking.

The NHS adds: “Markets, where live birds are sold, can also be a source of bird flu.

“You can’t catch bird flu through eating fully cooked poultry or eggs, even in areas with an outbreak of bird flu.”

So far, five people have died from the flu so far this year amidst growing calls for increased surveillance of the disease.

So far this year, five people have died from the avian flu in China.

Two other people died of H5N6 bird flu in December 2021 but the cases were only reported by Chinese health authorities last week.

H5N6, which causes severe illness in humans of all ages, has killed almost half of those infected with it, according to the WHO.

So far the Chinese government has not disclosed the outcome in most of the other cases of the bird flu.

Thijs Kuiken, a professor at Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, was alarmed by the rising number of cases.

Speaking to Reuters, he warned: “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.”

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While there have been no confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission, a woman who tested positive for H5N6 last year denied having any contact with live poultry.

A study published by China’s Center for Disease Control in September highlighted several mutations present in two recent cases of the flu strain.

The researchers said that “the increasing trend of human infection with avian influenza virus has become an important public health issue that cannot be ignored.”

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