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China Reports Human Case of H5N6 AI

01/13/2023

The Center for Health Protection of the Department of Health of the People’s Republic of China has belatedly reported a case of H5N6 avian influenza. The patient was a 54-year-old man resident in Changsha, Hunan Province with a history of contact with live chickens.

 

Since 2014, 82 human cases avian influenza H5N6 have been diagnosed on the Mainland of China. The Central Health Authority has warned travelers to avoid wet markets, live poultry or visits to farms.  Various nations and territories are warning returning travelers from China to report any influenza-like symptoms to health professionals.

 

China will continue to record cases of avian influenza while they maintain a live bird market system. The the risk of contracting HPAI from live poultry appears to be infinitesimal given the limited number of cases, and the frequency of potential exposure among 1.4 billion with at least 20 percent visiting a market weekly. Unfortunately there is always a risk of a recombinant event with contact between infected humans and flocks resulting in the emergence of a strain capable of person-to-person transmission.

 

Given the situation in China it is again questioned why the U.S. tolerates live bird markets in urban centers in the U.S. to satisfy the needs of limited demographics.  Live bird markets are anachronous and unnecessary given the availability of both halal and kosher chicken in supermarkets that were processed in USDA-inspected establishments.  The risk to both supply and commercial flocks and human contacts of poultry in a live bird market far outweighs the apparent benefits demanded by a minority of consumers.