Emergencies preparedness, response

Human infection with avian influenza A(H5N6) virus – China

Disease outbreak news
23 March 2016

On 15 March 2016, the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) of China notified WHO of 1 additional laboratory-confirmed case of human infection with avian influenza A(H5N6) virus.

A 40-year-old female who lives in Huizhou City, Guangdong Province developed fever and cough on 20 February. She was admitted to a local hospital on 22 February and is now in critical condition. On 15 March, Guangdong CDC performed a validation test of her sample and this was confirmed to be H5N6 virus nucleic acid positive. Close contacts of this case remain healthy.

Public health response

The Chinese Government has taken the following surveillance and control measures:

  • strengthening surveillance, analysis and research;
  • further enhancing the medical care of the case;
  • conducting public risk communication and releasing information.

WHO risk assessment

This report does not change the overall public health risk from avian influenza A(H5N6) viruses. Although influenza A(H5N6) has caused severe infection in humans, until now human infections with the virus seem to be sporadic with no ongoing human to human transmission and close contacts of the case remain healthy. However, the characterization of this virus is ongoing and its implication to the evolution and emergence of a pandemic strain is unknown. The risk of international disease spread is considered to be low at this point in time. WHO continues to assess the epidemiological situation and conduct further risk assessment based on the latest information.

WHO advice

WHO advises that travellers to countries with known outbreaks of avian influenza should avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live bird markets, entering areas where poultry may be slaughtered, or contact with any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with faeces from poultry or other animals. Travellers should also wash their hands often with soap and water. Travellers should follow good food safety and good food hygiene practices.

WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event, nor does it currently recommend any travel or trade restrictions. As always, a diagnosis of infection with an avian influenza virus should be considered in individuals who develop severe acute respiratory symptoms while travelling or soon after returning from an area where avian influenza is a concern.

WHO encourages countries to continue strengthening influenza surveillance, including surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns, in order to ensure reporting of human infections under the IHR (2005), and continue national health preparedness actions.