(Adds WHO comments)
By Polina Devitt and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber
MOSCOW, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Russia has registered the firstcase of a strain of bird flu virus named A(H5N8) being passed tohumans from birds and has reported the matter to the WorldHealth Organization (WHO), Anna Popova, head of consumer healthwatchdog Rospotrebnadzor, said on Saturday.
Outbreaks of the H5N8 strain have been reported in Russia,Europe, China, the Middle East and North Africa in recent monthsbut so far only in poultry. Other strains - H5N1, H7N9 and H9N2- have been known https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(avian-and-other-zoonotic)to spread to humans.
Russia reported the case of human infection to the WHO"several days ago, just as we became absolutely certain of ourresults," Popova said on Rossiya 24 state TV. There was no signyet of transmission between humans, she added.
Seven workers at a poultry plant in Russia's south had beeninfected with the H5N8 strain in an outbreak at the plant inDecember, Popova said, adding that the individuals involved feltfine now. "This situation did not develop further," she said.
In an email WHO's European arm said it had been notified byRussia about a case of human infection with H5N8 andacknowledged this would if confirmed be the first time thestrain had infected people.
"Preliminary information indicates that the reported caseswere workers exposed to bird flocks," the email said. "They wereasymptomatic and no onward human to human transmission wasreported.
"We are in discussion with national authorities to gathermore information and assess the public health impact of thisevent," the email added.
The majority of human bird flu infections have beenassociated with direct contact with infected live or deadpoultry, though properly cooked food is considered to be safe.
Bird flu outbreaks often prompt poultry plants to kill theirbirds to prevent the virus from spreading, and avoid importingcountries having to impose trade restrictions.
The vast majority of cases are spread by migrating wildbirds, so producing countries tend to keep their poultry indoorsor protected from contact with wildlife.
Siberia's Vector Institute said on Saturday it would startdeveloping human tests and a vaccine against H5N8, RIA newsagency reported.(Reporting by Polina Devitt and Gabrielle Tétrault-FarberAdditional reporting by Vladimir SoldatkinEditing by Mark Heinrich and David Holmes)