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Avian influenza in humans

​In focus: avian influenza A(H7N9)

A novel influenza A avian influenza virus, A(H7N9), was identified in China in March 2013, causing severe illness in humans. This is the first time that human infection with a low pathogenic avian influenza A virus has been associated with fatal outcome in humans. Since then, cases continue to be reported in China.

ECDC continues to monitor and assess the situation. The latest updates and rapid risk assessments on avian influenza A(H7N9) virus are available in the news and epidemiological updates and risk assessments sections.

Other avian influenza viruses

Each novel influenza has to be evaluated for its potential to cause severe disease, a pandemic or both.


Since 1996, a particular strain of bird flu known as A(H5N1) has emerged. It was first identified in Southern China and Hong Kong. The A(H5N1) virus kills a high proportion of poultry that it infects and is therefore known as a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus.

Occasionally, A(H5N1) infects humans in contact with infected poultry, and causes severe disease in humans. The A(H5N1) virus has not established in poultry in Europe because of high levels of biosafety. Also, A(H5N1) virus has not adapted to be able to infect humans easily or to transmit from person to person efficiently.


Avian influenza H5N8 in poultry

In November 2014, outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus A(H5N8) in poultry were notified by several European countries. Previously, this virus has been detected among wild birds and domestic poultry in Asia.
No human infection with this virus has ever been reported world-wide. The risk of transmission of the virus to the general public is extremely low.
Ongoing monitoring and testing of wild birds and domestic poultry in the EU is important to detect and prevent further spread of this highly pathogenic virus to poultry and other farmed birds.








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