- By Dennis Douda
First Confirmation of Human Infected with Bird Flu Strain H6N1
Mayo Vaccine Expert Says Latest Bird Flu News Reinforces Need for "Relentless Surveillance"
"This raises the alarm, once again, of a novel strain of influenza virus that’s capable of causing human illness," says Greg Poland, M.D., head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. "It has a genetic mutation that allows it to get into human cells. Could a virus like this become pandemic?”
News of the first confirmed case of a human contracting H6N1 was published online Thursday by the The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. The patient, a 20-year-old woman working in Taiwan, had no known contact with live birds. She tested positive for the novel strain of avian influenza, known to infect chickens in the region. The woman recovered after treatment with antibiotics and antiviral medications.
Journalists: Sound bites with Dr. Poland are available in the downloads.
/// Sound bite - SIGNIFICANCE - (Dr. Greg Poland, Mayo Clinic Vaccine Expert) "And importantly while we’ve known that H6 viruses circulate widely among birds, this is the first time that it happened in a human and there’s a mutation in the virus that allowed it to affect a human. It may have infected other humans, but we have documentation of this first one." TRT :20
Dr. Poland says a significant concern regarding novel viruses, such as the known strains of bird flu, is that they are new to the human immune system and, therefore, we have not built up the needed antibodies to effectively fight them. On the positive side, Poland says, so far, antiviral medications have been effective at helping patients recover. As for why we seem to be hearing more about bird flu lately, Dr. Poland says the threat has caused world health experts to step up surveillance.
/// Sound bite - SURVEILLANCE - (Dr. Greg Poland, Mayo Clinic Vaccine Expert) "In the past there wasn’t a lot of work done in looking for these viruses in birds because it didn’t make birds sick. It does make humans sick and there’s more and more interaction, more surveillance and a lot more global travel that allows the spread of these viruses, including trade in these birds, migratory patterns of these birds, so it really is one village when it comes to these diseases." TRT :27
In another announcement today it was revealed that a vaccine for the H7N9 influenza strain, another form of bird flu, did succeed in creating an immune response in humans.