South Africa Battles High-Path H7N6 Avian Flu in Poultry

Outbreaks of highly pathogenic H7N6 avian flu that began at the end of May have led to the loss of about a quarter of South Africa's poultry, with layer farms hit hardest, according to a poultry industry official quoted in a South African agriculture publication.

According to the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH), the first outbreak began on May 29 in Mpumalanga province in the eastern part of the country. The outbreaks have spread to farms in four other provinces: Gauteng, Free State, Limpopo, and Northwest.

Shahn Bisschop, DVM, who heads Avimune, a poultry veterinary service in South Africa, told media outlets that the H7N6 strain—new to the country—appears to be far more contagious than the H5N1 virus spreading in the rest of the world. He said South Africa is already experiencing egg shortages and may start to face meat shortages within 4 to 6 weeks.

Animal health officials aren't sure if the onset of warmer weather during the Southern Hemisphere's summer season will slow the spread of the virus, and discussions are under way about emergency use of a vaccine to help the poultry industry recover.

A new observational study from Canadian researchers reveals that COVID vaccination after long COVID was tied to fewer symptoms, increased well-being, and less inflammation. The study, based on participants in Montreal, is published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Long COVID, or post-COVID condition (PCC), is a major emerging public health issue, as 10% to 30% of COVID-19 patients who are not hospitalized, and 50% to 70% hospitalized patients, experience an array of symptoms lasting more than 12 weeks after acute infection.

While vaccination may protect against severe disease and hospitalization, less is known about how vaccination after PCC diagnosis affects patients. In the present study, 83 participants previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 who were diagnosed as having PCC before COVID vaccination were followed for up to 24 months.

Participants were enrolled in the study from February 12 to September 8, 2021. Forty-four had not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine at the beginning of the study, while the remaining 39 had already received one or two doses.

Vaccination linked to lower cytokines

The five most common PCC symptoms reported at the beginning of the study were fatigue (81.9%), trouble with concentration (47.0%), trouble with memory (39.8%), headache (32.5%) and shortness of breath at rest (31.3%) during all follow-ups.

After vaccination, 77.8%, 7.4%, and 14.8% of participants reported improved, worsened and unchanged well-being scores, respectively, the authors said. And 86%, 8.3% and 5.6% of participants reported fewer, more, and the same number of PCC symptoms, respectively.

Sixteen cytokines and chemokines were significantly decreased after vaccination in participant blood samples, a sign that inflammatory proteins were mitigated by vaccination.

"High inflammatory cytokine/chemokine levels have been correlated with increased acute COVID-19 severity and poor prognosis," the authors concluded. "We observed a significant reduction in systemic inflammatory cytokine/chemokine levels post-vaccination, independent of number of vaccine doses received."

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