WHO alters H5N1 reporting

The World Health Organization recently announced that it will begin reporting human cases of H5N1 avian influenza every month on its influenza webpage.

The WHO said that cases of human infection with H5N1 will now only be reported on its Disease Outbreak News webpage when they are unusual or represent an increased risk for extended infections.

WHO Member States will still be required to inform the organization of every sporadic incidence of human infection by H5N1 and novel virus infection as required by WHO's international health regulations.

The WHO gave no reason for the change as part of its announcement.

According to WHO's monthly Influenza Human-animal interface assessment, there have been 608 laboratory confirmed cases of human H5N1 avian influenza cases since 2003. Of those cases, 359 died as a result of the infection. The last reported infection occurred in July.

H5N1's high mortality rate causes concern among experts worried about a possible pandemic outbreak, but the virus is not readily transmissible in humans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The WHO said that the number of H5N1 outbreaks in poultry will increase through the winter months, increasing the possibility of human infection. The organization said this is expected and said the public health risk posed by the virus remains unchanged.