Kuwait reported an outbreak of the highly contagious H5N8 bird flu virus in ducks, geese and pheasants, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Monday, citing an official Kuwaiti report. Some 144 birds were found dead in the region of Al Jarah, according to the report posted by the Paris-based OIE.
Different strains of bird flu have been spreading across Europe and Asia since late last year, leading to mass culling of poultry in certain countries and some human deaths in China. This prompted the World Health Organization to call on all countries on Monday to monitor closely outbreaks of the deadly virus in birds and poultry and to report promptly any human cases that could signal the start of a flu pandemic.
The H5N8 virus is highly deadly for poultry but has never been found in humans. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization called on all countries to closely monitor outbreaks of deadly avian influenza in birds and to report promptly any human cases that could signal the start of a flu pandemic.
Different strains of bird flu have been spreading across Europe and Asia since late last year, leading to large-scale slaughters of poultry in affected countries and some human deaths in China.
Nearly 40 countries have reported new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry or wild birds since November, according to the WHO. “The rapidly expanding geographical distribution of these outbreaks and the number of virus strains currently co-circulating have put WHO on high alert,” WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan told the start of the UN agency’s 10-day executive board.
The new H5N6 strain causing severe outbreaks in Asia was created by gene-swapping among four different viruses, she said. The world is better prepared for the next influenza pandemic – following the H1N1 pandemic that circled the world in 2009-2010 – “but not at all well enough”, Chan said.
In China, there has been a “sudden and steep increase” in human cases of H7N9 since December and the WHO has not been able to rule out limited human-tohuman spread in two clusters of human cases although no sustained spread has been detected thus far, she said.
Under the International Health Regulations, a binding legal instrument, WHO’s 194 member states are required to detect and report human cases promptly, Chan said, adding: “We cannot afford to miss the early signals.”
China’s delegation, led by Zhang Yang of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, told the Geneva meeting China would carry out its obligations on communicating and responding to any outbreaks. “Currently H7N9 overall statistics remains the same,” Zhang said. “China will continue to strengthen its cooperation and exchange with WHO in this regard.”