Although avian flu A (H5N8) is spreading in Europe and becoming increasingly virulent in birds, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reports that it is unlikely to sicken humans. Genome sequencing of similar viruses reveals that they are still essentially “bird viruses,” the agency reports.
HPAI A(H5N8) viruses cluster in the same haemagglutinin (HA) clade as A(H5N1) viruses from Asia and A(H5N6) — which has caused severe disease in humans in China — so the possibility of transmission from birds to humans cannot be completely ruled out. People in direct contact with or handling diseased birds or poultry and their carcasses may be at risk of infection. Given this potential zoonotic risk, control measures for avian influenza in poultry and birds are being implemented by the affected countries to ensure that persons at risk are sufficiently protected from infection.
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