Infectious Diseases 2021

Infectious Diseases 2021

WHO: Assessment of risk associated with HPAI A(H5N6) virus

22 November, 2021

The rise in numbers of reported human cases of A(H5N6) infection may reflect the spread of these viruses in poultry and an increased diagnostic capacity and awareness for respiratory illness etiology amongst human health systems in China and likely elsewhere. The increased sensitivity of diagnostic systems is a direct outcome from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With continued circulation of the virus in birds, human infections will continue. It is unclear if the A(H5N6) viruses have enhanced intrinsic zoonotic potential. Although genetic markers known to be associated with mammalian adaptation have been identified sporadically in individual cases following infection, these changes were not consistently present in environmental or poultry viruses and likely reflect intra-host mutations.
While the zoonotic threat remains elevated due to spread of the viruses in birds, based on evidence available so far, the overall pandemic risk is considered not significantly changed in comparison to previous years. Minimizing the risk to humans largely depends on decreasing virus circulation in poultry, reducing the amount of virus in environments at the animal-human interface (i.e., live bird markets and farms) and mitigating exposure to potentially infected birds.