2023: outbreaks of avian influenza

The following outbreaks, which occurred last year, illustrate the reality of zoonotic influenza, the fact that all ages can be vulnerable, that those with and without comorbidities can be at risk, and that various exposures can lead to avian influenza infection. It is interesting to note the way scientists are able to analyse the viruses and fit them within a phylogenic tree showing their relationships and evolution. The diversity of zoonotic influenza viruses that caused human infections in 2023 is alarming and infections of some types of zoonotic influenza viruses caused severe disease with a high mortality rate. In 2023 they did not transmit easily from person to person, although we never know when this may change, and therefore must be ever-ready for a pandemic.

WHO will continue to strengthen surveillance, jointly with its partners, in both animal and human populations, thoroughly investigate every zoonotic infection, build up pandemic preparedness planning, and get better readiness for the next influenza pandemic. Here is a summary of some avian influenza outbreaks notified to WHO last year:


On 9 January 2023, WHO was notified of a human infection caused by an avian influenza A(H5) virus. The case, a nine-year-old girl, living in a rural area in the province of Bolívar, Ecuador, was in contact with backyard poultry a week before the onset of her symptoms. As of 18 January she was hospitalized, in isolation, and being treated with antivirals. This was the first reported case of human infection caused by avian influenza A(H5) virus in the Latin America and the Caribbean region. Work was ongoing to further characterize the virus.

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