In a follow-up on the first human H5N1 avian influenza case in Spain, the Ministerio de Sanidad’s Centro de Coordinación de Alertas y Emergencias Sanitarias reports the following on October 4:
On September 27, the detection of influenza A(H5N1) was confirmed in a respiratory sample, which
which constitutes the first detection in the human being in Spain.
The sample belonged to a male 19 years old, a worker at a poultry farm in the province of Guadalajara, where he had detected a focus of infection by this virus in birds on September 17, 2022.
Among the measures for the prevention, control and early detection established around the focus, on the 23rd September tests for the detection of the virus by PCR were carried out on 12 workers, all of them asymptomatic. On September 27, the National Center for Microbiology (CNM) confirmed that one of the samples was positive for influenza A(H5N1). The RT-PCR result indicated a high Ct value, which corresponded to a low viral load. In addition, the CNM has partially sequenced the hemagglutinin confirming that it is H5.
The detection of influenza A(H5N1) virus in the respiratory sample of this asymptomatic person and
with a low viral load, raises the possibility that this finding corresponds to contamination from the surface of the nasal or pharyngeal membrane, although this cannot be demonstrated specifically.
Avian influenza A(H5N1) is an infection with a high lethality in birds and with important economic repercussions on poultry farming. Transmission from birds to humans considered a rare phenomenon and transmission between people is extremely infrequent.
The 2021-2022 season has had the highest incidence of avian influenza A(H5N1) in birds of those recorded so far worldwide, in addition to having lasted for months summer, a fact that until now was unprecedented. Despite this, only two human cases of influenza A (H5N1) (one asymptomatic and the other with very mild symptoms) at the world.
In this season, 85 outbreaks have been detected in the country in wild birds and 36 in poultry farms. In Spain there are protocols for the surveillance and control of avian influenza including active surveillance for possible human cases directly related to the outbreaks of birds in farms. Since January 2022 controls have been carried out on workers of 22 farms: 177 tests carried out on 253 exposed workers, all of them resulting negative.
The risk of new detections appearing is considered low for workers with occupational exposure in affected farms with sick birds. Even though the cases can become serious, the low capacity to transmit between people makes the risk considered very low for the general population. The risk associated with the consumption of poultry meat or eggs is insignificant.
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