WHO has published Human infection with avian influenza A(H5N6) virus – China. Excerpt and then a comment:
On 18 January 2016, the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) of China notified WHO of 1 additional laboratory-confirmed case of human infection with avian influenza A(H5N6) virus.
Details of the case
The case is a 31-year-old female from Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province who developed symptoms on 8 January. The patient was admitted to a local hospital and is now in critical condition.
Public health response
The Chinese Government has taken the following surveillance and control measures:
• making every effort to treat the patient; collecting and testing the specimens of the patient, carrying out viral isolation, gene sequencing and alignment;
• conducting epidemiological investigation; tracing, managing and observing close contacts of the patient;
• strengthening surveillance of pneumonia of unknown causes and routine sentinel surveillance of influenza; strengthening the etiological surveillance of influenza/avian influenza virus;
• strengthening measures to control the source of infection.
WHO risk assessment
WHO continues to closely monitor the influenza A(H5N6) situation and conduct risk assessments. So far, the overall risk associated with avian influenza A(H5N6) viruses has not changed.
I remember Shenzhen Special Economic Zone in 1983 when it was just a handful of highrises wrapped in bamboo scaffolding on a broad plain that had once been rice paddies and villages. It became a metaphor for three decades of explosive Chinese growth, the core of the vast industrial sprawl between Hong Kong and Guangzhou. Millions of Chinese and foreigners swarmed into Shenzhen, rather as draftees like me had swarmed into Fort Ord, California, twenty years earlier. I met a lot of interesting guys there, we exchanged life stories and germs, and a lot of us got sick.
Meningitis was our scare word, especially after a major outbreak in the basic-training barracks a few months later. I went through basic when you had to be unresponsive to get permission to go on sick call; now you were on sick call no more than the sniffles. Recruits' mattresses hung out the barracks window to air while the recruits themselves went through a gentler form of basic than I'd known. Eventually, basic training was shut down temporarily and new recruits were sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana—where, the army grapevine informed us, meningitis raged on, but with less publicity.
With so many people from so many places crowded into such a small area, Shenzhen is a great cauldron for rare new viruses, and not the only one. I wish this unknown 31-year-old woman, born just a year or so after I last saw Shenzhen, all the luck in the world.