WHO urges vigilance for H5N1 bird flu influenza worldwide

FILE-Ducks swim in a pond in a Snoa village farm outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. An 11-year-old girl in Cambodia has died from bird flu in the country’s first known human H5N1 infection since 2014, health officials said, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


The World Health Organization (WHO) insists countries should carefully observe seasonal influenza and implement vaccines for the current strains, in a report yesterday.

WHO emphasizes they are taking the risk from these viruses seriously and “urge heightened vigilance from all countries.” 

The announcement was made during an information session at the Composition of Influenza Virus Vaccines meeting, which is held twice a year. 

H5N1 is a respiratory infection caused by influenza A and B viruses, known to cause seasonal epidemics that circulate in all parts of the world

Flu-like symptoms range from mild to severe illness that may result in death, particularly in high risk groups of the very young, elderly, pregnant or health workers.

Influenza vaccines undergo periodic replacements to ensure vaccines are effective as the viruses infecting humans are constantly evolving, according to WHO. 

“Cambodian authorities have informed us of two confirmed cases of Indian influenza H5N1, both members of the same family. One of the cases, an 11-year-old girl unfortunately passed away,” Dr. Slyvia Briand, director for global infectious hazard preparedness said, during the information session. WHO is in close communication with Cambodian authorities to understand more about the outbreak. 

“The global H5N1 situation is worrying given the widespread of virus in birds around the world and the increasing reports of cases in mammals including humans. The mortality rate among cases reported with H5N1 infection over the years is over 50 per cent,“ she continued. 

In Canada, a FluWatch summary from Feb. 12 to Feb. 18 reports low influenza cases on a national level. Positive tests totaled 0.8 per cent of 216 laboratory detections, where the overall hospitalization rate this season is 47 to every 100,000 Canadians.

WHO Collaborating Centres and WHO Essential Regulatory Laboratories advisory experts are called to analyse influenza virus surveillance data generated by the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System.

The national vaccine regulatory agencies and pharmaceutical companies use recommendations issued to produce and license vaccines for the following influenza season.



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