Avian influenza virus remains a potential threat to humans. The H5N1 virus was first isolated in 1996 from a goose in China; in 1997, outbreaks on poultry farms and live animal markets in Hong Kong were reported, along with human infections. New variants of H5N1 emerged in 2001 and 2003. From 2003 to March 2010, the World Health Organization reported 289 deaths for the 488 confirmed human cases of H5N1 infection. In early cases, almost all patients presented with fever, cough, shortness of breath, and lower respiratory tract symptoms. More rapid progression of disease and more fatalities were observed in later cases, and GI and encephalitic symptoms predominated. After a 2004 outbreak, H5N1 was documented in several naturally infected species.

This study used a ferret model to evaluate neurologic disease in H5N1 infection and evaluated treatment with the antiviral agent peramivir, a neuraminidase inhibitor. Viral replication activity was very high in ferret brain tissue, with viral antigens found predominantly in neurons, correlating with inflammatory lesions. Early and continuous treatment with peramivir inhibited virus production to nondetectable levels, reduced severity of brain injury, and promoted higher survival rates.

Neuropathology of H5N1 virus infection in ferrets. Peng B-H, Yun N, Chumakova O, et al. VET MICROBIOL 156:294-304, 2012.

This capsule is part of the One Health Initiative