First human case of 'bird flu' reported in Australia in a child who acquired it while in India

Humans are not at risk from this virus unless they had contact with infected birds or animals or their secretions.
Representative Image.
Representative Image.

CANBERRA: Australia has announced the first confirmed case of human bird flu in a child who is believed to have acquired it while in India some weeks ago, according to a media report on Wednesday.

The child is no longer unwell.

“A child in Victoria has been confirmed as having the first case of bird flu in Australia. The child acquired the avian influenza A (H5N1) infection while in India, and was unwell in March this year,” 9news.com.au said quoting state health officials.

"A human case of avian influenza A(H5N1) infection, also known as “bird flu”, has been reported in Victoria. There is no evidence of transmission in Victoria and the chance of additional human cases is very low as avian influenza does not easily spread between people," the Victorian Department of Health posted on X.

"The recently reported case was in a child who returned to Australia from overseas in March 2024. The child experienced a severe infection but is no longer unwell and has made a full recovery," it said in another post without identifying the foreign country.

The case was announced hours after bird flu was detected on a farm in Victoria, 9news.com.au said.

“Contact tracing has not identified any further cases of avian influenza connected to this case,” the Victoria Health said in a statement and added, that the child reportedly experienced a severe infection but is no longer unwell.

“The avian influenza virus was detected through further testing of positive influenza samples that take place to detect novel or concerning flu virus strains, as part of Victoria's enhanced surveillance system,” the news portal said quoting health officials.

Victoria Health said the child was the first case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Australia, and the first detected case of the H5N1 strain in the country. A different strain of bird flu was detected on the Victorian egg farm after several poultry deaths.

“While the human case detected today is the H5N1 strain, the strain on the farm was found to be a different H7N7 variety,” the report said.

A report in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) said, “Contact tracing has not identified any further cases of avian influenza connected to this case. The department reassured the community that the chances of additional human cases are ‘very low’.”

Humans are not at risk from this virus unless they had contact with infected birds or animals or their secretions. “Rarely, avian influenza infection in humans can pass to another person with prolonged contact. However, there is no evidence that the H5N1 strains of avian influenza circulating globally can spread easily from human to human,” the officials added.

Elaborating on the strain on the farm, the H7N7 variety, the ABC report said, hundreds of thousands of chickens at the egg farm in Victoria were being euthanased after the disease was detected there.

The property near Meredith, in the state's west, is in quarantine, the Department of Health said and added the Victorian child has no links to the egg farm outbreak.

Bird flu in poultry was last detected in Australia in 2020.

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