With reports of Ebola and bubonic plague now competing with COVID-19 as the next potential trigger for trillions in unrelated stimulus, bird flu has returned just in time for President Biden to confront his old nemesis, should it spread beyond Russia's borders (and become even moderately deadly in humans).
Russian authorities report that seven employees at a poultry farm in southern Russia have contracted H5N8 bird flu, however they stress that there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission. The cases have been described as "mild" according to Interfax - however in birds symptoms can range from "asymptomatic and sub-clinical to highly lethal in some populations."
"Today, I want to inform you about an important scientific discovery made by scientists at the Vector scientific center," said Anna Popova, head of Russia's consumer health watchdog. "The first cases of human infection with [avian influenza A(H5N8)] have been laboratory confirmed."
"The virus can be transmitted from birds to humans, it has overcome the interspecies barrier," she added. "As of today, this variant of the influenza virus is not being transmitted from person to person. Only time will tell how quickly future mutations will allow it to overcome this barrier."
In chickens, typical symptoms of respiratory illness include sneezing, coughing, wheezing or labored breathing and fewer eggs. H5N8 in particular has a 75% mortality rate in chickens.
Popova says the discovery will help researchers prepare in case the disease mutates and becomes transmissible between humans, according to BNO News, which added that "detailed information about the seven cases has been submitted to the World Health Organization."
H5N8 has been found in birds since at least 1983 and outbreaks have occurred frequently since 2014, when it was found in breeding ducks in South Korea. Numerous outbreaks have been reported during the last 6 months, including in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, China, Japan, and South Korea. -BNO News
"The H5N8 type influenza is regarded as pathogenic and is currently manifesting itself in a variety of ways, from asymptomatic and sub-clinical to highly lethal in some populations," according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) in a recent update.