Russia said Saturday that its scientists had detected the world's first case of transmission of the H5N8 strain of avian flu from birds to humans and had alerted the World Health Organization.
In televised remarks, the head of Russia's health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, Anna Popova, said scientists at the Vektor laboratory had isolated the strain's genetic material from seven workers at a poultry farm in southern Russia, where an outbreak was recorded among the birds in December.
"Information about the world's first case of transmission of the avian flu (H5N8) to humans has already been sent to the World Health Organization," Popova said.
While the highly contagious strain H5N8 is lethal for birds, it had never before been reported to have spread to humans.
Gwenael Vourc'h, head of research at France's National Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment, said that influenza viruses are known to evolve "quite quickly" and that there might have been other cases besides those reported in Russia.
In televised remarks, Vektor chief Rinat Maksyutov said the lab was ready to begin developing test kits that would help detect potential cases of H5N8 in humans and to begin work on a vaccine.