Vietnam warned to stay vigilant with influenza A (H5N8) hinh anh 1Illustrative image (Photo: VNA) 
Hanoi (VNA) – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Vietnam have issued a press release urging the Vietnamese Government and the public to keep vigilance on the H5N8 human infection upon the detection of seven farm workers infected with the influenza A (H5N8) in a chicken farm in Russia, the Ministry of Health said on March 3.

This is the first report of H5N8 poultry-to-human infection despite the virus having been circulating in poultry and wild birds since 2016. All the seven human cases were asymptomatic. To date, there is no evidence to suggest that severe human infections or human-to-human transmission of this virus have occurred and that this event likely represents isolated spillover of virus from infected chickens to humans.

In Vietnam, the Department of Animal Health (DAH) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has never detected H5N8 virus in their surveillance systems. The DAH is going to increase testing for H5N8 virus in the national avian influenza surveillance programme starting from 2021.

“Technically the H5N8 virus share antigenic characteristics with the H5N6 virus circulating in Vietnam, the current avian influenza vaccine used in Vietnam should remain effective to prevent the disease in poultry,” said Dr Pawin Padungtod, the Senior Technical Coordinator, FAO Vietnam.

“Although the risk of human infection of this specific strain of avian influenza A(H5N8) in Vietnam is very low, we must remain vigilant and continue to practice personal protective measures against avian flu,” said Dr Satoko Otsu, Team Lead, WHO Health Emergency Programme in Vietnam.

The bird flu infections in humans have been associated with direct contact with infected live or dead poultry. 

“We should continue with our coordinated surveillance both at the animal and human health sectors. The public can support by reporting sick or death events in poultry as soon as possible and by practicing personal protective measures,” added Dr Otsu.

Outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A(H5N8) have been reported in Russia, Europe, China, the Middle East and north Africa in recent months, but only in poultry and wild birds. Other strains of HPAI, such as H5N1, H5N6 and H7N9, have been transmitted to humans before.

HPAI H5N1 killed 64 Vietnamese people since it first occurred in 2003. No human cases deaths have been reported since 2014, but occasional outbreaks in poultry caused the culling of many chickens and ducks./.