On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an ongoing global monitoring for respiratory viruses with pandemic potential has recently identified three new human infections with avian influenza A(H5N6) virus (or “A(H5N6) bird flu”) in China.
Reported influenza A(H5N6) virus infections during 2021 have doubled the number of such cases detected since this virus was first found in people in 2014, raising concerns about the risk of additional human zoonotic infections and the pandemic potential of this virus.
Since 2014 when the first influenza A(H5N6) infection in a person was detected in China, 51 such infections have been reported, including 25 during 2021, as of October 29, 2021. Twenty-four of the 25 cases identified in 2021 were detected in China and one was detected in Lao PDR. The case in Lao PDR was the first human infection with influenza A(H5N6) reported outside of China.
Most of the cases of influenza A(H5N6) reported in China during 2021 have had exposure to birds prior to illness onset. The three newest infections occurred in adults who, as of October 29, 2021, were reportedly hospitalized or in critical condition. There have been seven deaths (all in China) from influenza A(H5N6) this year. As of October 29, 2021, of the 51 laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with influenza A(H5N6) virus reported to the World Health Organization since 2014, 25 infections resulted in death.
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