Rapid risk assessment: Human infection with avian influenza A(H5N1) virus, Egypt - 1st update, 13 March 2015

Risk assessment

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Human infection with avian influenza A(H5N1) virus, Egypt – first update. 13 March 2015. Stockholm: ECDC; 2015.

Human cases and fatalities due to influenza A(H5N1) virus continue to increase in Egypt, with cases from the country now accounting for the highest number of human cases reported worldwide.

Executive summary

Continuous increase of virus circulation in backyard poultry and exposure to infected poultry are most probably contributing to the increase in human cases. Whenever avian influenza viruses circulate in poultry, sporadic infections and small clusters of human cases are possible in people exposed to infected poultry or contaminated environments.

Although Egypt has reported an increased number of animal-to-human infections over the past few months, the influenza A(H5) viruses do not appear to transmit easily among people, and no sustained human-to-human transmission has been observed. As such, the risk of these viruses spreading in the community remains low.

Increased human infectivity of the circulating virus and the protection conferred by the poultry vaccines currently in use should be further investigated.
The current assessment remains that there is no risk for the general public in the EU. Travellers from the EU should avoid direct contact with poultry or poultry products when travelling to Egypt.

There is a low but ongoing and continuous risk of the virus being introduced and cases being imported into Europe and therefore both veterinary and public health authorities should maintain preparedness.