Russia Flags World’s First Cases of H5N8 Bird Flu Transmission to Humans


Feb 23, 2021


Image Credit: EPA

Scientists in Russia have alerted the World Health Organization (WHO) about the world’s first transmission of the H5N8 avian flu from bird to human. The highly contagious H5N8 strain is one of many avian flu strains and is deadly for birds but not fatal for human beings.

“The discovery of these mutations when the virus has not still acquired an ability to transmit from human to human gives us all, the entire world, time to prepare for possible mutations and react in an adequate and timely fashion,” Anna Popova, the head of a Russian health watchdog, remarked in a televised statement.

The people who caught the H5N8 strain work in a poultry farm and are asymptomatic; they have not suffered any serious health consequences, according to the WHO.

Fear and concern regarding the avian flu in India stem from the country’s 2006 H5N1 bird flu epidemic. The H5N1 strain, which can also jump to humans from infected birds, has a mortality rate of 60% in humans. However, this strain has never been detected spreading from human to human. Between 2006 and December 31, 2018, India reported 225 epicenters of bird flu infection, which led to the culling of 83.49 lakh birds, with farmers being paid Rs. 26.37 crore in compensation, according to the Indian Express.

Related on The Swaddle:

3 Indian States Confirm Bird Flu, Plan to Cull Thousands of Local Birds

India’s more recent bird-flu outbreak involves the H5N8 strain, which so far has only infected several types of migratory birds, poultry, and crows. The Indian government identified several disease epicenters, including Mandsaur, Indore, Malwa (Madhya Pradesh), Baran, Kota, Jhalawar( Rajasthan), Kangra (Himachal Pradesh), and Kottayam and Alappuzha (Kerala).

Due to the outbreak and the resultant paranoia around the consumption of poultry and eggs, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) released an advisory on how to safely consume both. According to the FSSAI website, some precautions include:

  1. Do not eat half-boiled eggs
  2. Do not eat undercooked chicken
  3. Do not keep raw meat in the open
  4. Avoid direct contact with raw chicken, or use a mask and gloves if direct contact is required
  5. Wash hands frequently and maintain proper hygiene
  6. Avoid direct contact with birds in the infected areas
  7. Avoid touching dead birds with bare hands


Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is a culture writer at The Swaddle. Previously, she worked as a freelance journalist focused on gender and cities. Find her on social media @aditimurti.


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