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Security Brief: EMH2 Week of May 31, 2021

Week of Monday, May 31, 2021 | Issue 14

Erin Zalaoras, Emergency Management, Health, and Hazards (EMH2) Team

Enough already… The first human case of H10N3 bird flu confirmed in China[1]

Date: June 2, 2021

Location: Jiangsu Province, China

Parties involved: Chinese National Health Commission, Chinese Government, Poultry Industry, Residents of China

The event: The first human case of H10N3 bird flu has been discovered in a 41-year-old male in China. The Chinese government has not disclosed how the individual became infected, but experts say that the people infected by avian viruses are usually poultry handlers. Avian flu does not ordinarily spread amongst humans, but it is possible if someone is exposed to prolonged contact with birds. If humans have the human flu when they become infected with bird flu, the two viruses can mix, posing a danger to their health and the public. A mutant virus of human and bird flu could spread through droplets in the air, making human-to-human transmission somewhat likely.

The implications:

  • The transfer of the H10N3 strain from a bird to a human has never occurred before, so this discovery presents new health risks for those who work with live poultry. These workers are now at risk of infection of the H10N3 flu strain. Now that human infection of H10N3 is possible, it is likely that more infections will occur. If poultry workers continue to become infected with H10N3, there is potential for community spread of the strain. In addition, if workers are infected, they will likely be hospitalized and away from work, meaning decreased production.

  • If proper sanitation and safety measures are not followed when handling live poultry, the ease of transmission of bird flu to humans increases. This could affect people outside of the poultry industry if the flu is spread into the community. If the H10N3 bird flu mixes with human influenza, there is potential to create a mutant virus amongst humans. Without controlled measures, this could lead to the origination of an epidemic, which could spread internationally, and cause dangerous health issues.

Date: June 4, 2021

Location: India, England, Australia

Parties involved: World Health Organization (WHO), Indian Government, England Government, Australian Government

The event: The Delta variant of COVID-19 (B.1.617.2), which first originated in India, is swiftly spreading throughout England and has recently entered Australia.[2] Delta is the B.1.617 variant lineage and is the primary cause behind the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Delta is now the dominant variant of concern in England and is said to be highly transmissible.

The implications:

  • The Delta strain of COVID-19 is said to be 50% more transmissible than the Alpha variant, B.1.1.7. This presents a concern as the variants of COVID-19 appear to be stronger than their predecessor, making it likely that there will be more positive cases of COVID-19 in the near future if control measures are not reviewed and implemented. It is possible that current COVID-19 vaccines will not be completely effective at preventing the transmission of the Delta variant of COVID-19. If the vaccines are not effective at preventing COVID-19, more people will likely become infected and the transmission rate will increase.

  • Intercountry travel may increase the spread of the Delta COVID-19 variant if travelers are not tested before departure. If there is a surge of COVID-19 cases, local governments may impose stricter travel bans and lockdowns again, potentially for a longer period of time. If lockdowns are imposed, unemployment is likely to rise again, which may negatively affect the economy. This could bring on another shutdown of businesses, schools, and government offices.

  • If social distancing restrictions continue to be lifted, it is likely that this strain will spread more within Australia. Without using masks, this may increase the spread of the Delta strain.

Date: May 31, 2021

Location: South Island, New Zealand

Parties involved: New Zealand Defence Force, New Zealand Government, Residents of South Island

The event: Over the course of two days, 15.5 inches of rain poured down on New Zealand, causing rivers to burst their banks.[3] High numbers of residents were evacuated from the South Island as the heavy rains washed away bridges and cut off access to roads. New Zealand’s military was deployed to assist residents with evacuations and emergency aid. To date, no deaths have been reported, but critical infrastructure has been destroyed.

The implications:

  • If heavy rains continue throughout the South Island, more residents may need to be evacuated. This could put a strain on the shelters and organizations that are assisting the evacuees. Supplies may run out if shelters are overcrowded. Alongside the flooding, the spread of COVID-19 remains a prominent threat and poses the threat of spreading if multiple people are to be sheltered in the same building without being COVID-19 tested before arrival. The threat of overcrowding the shelters is likely depending on the numbers of evacuees which could cause accelerated cases. Given the incident was unexpected, it is likely that people have not had COVID-19 tests, and some of those evacuated may be COVID-19 positive, increasing the threat of virus transmission.

  • In the event of more excessive rain, levees may be breached, causing rivers to flood into additional areas of town. Residents located in flood zones and near rivers should be prepared to evacuate if the rain continues. This may present long-term issues with recovery time and funding for damaged infrastructure. If flooding continues, evacuees may have to stay in shelters for longer periods of time.

  • If levees are breached and water is able to rush out of rivers, the loss of crops and livestock is possible. This could lead to a shortage of certain foods throughout New Zealand, likely causing food insecurity.

  • If there are areas of standing water, this may present a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Standing water may also contain sewage and chemicals, which could be harmful to humans, wildlife, and plants. If standing water contains chemicals, this could create illnesses that may infect water systems.


[2] Delta variant, which fueled India's second wave, now casts shadow over UK & Australia, The Times of India, June 2021

[3] Hundreds evacuated in New Zealand's Canterbury region floods, Reuters, June 2021



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