Water Sanitation Health

Risks to human health through potential transmission of avian influenza (H5N1) through water and sewage

Review of latest available evidence

Interest in avian influenza H5N1 is high among the policy and technical communities and the general public because of concern for the high mortality rates in the rare human infections with avian H5N1; and because of concern that a new human pathogenic strain may evolve from H5N1.

There is a paucity of information on avian influenza H5N1 virus presence and stability in water and sewage, its route of transmission from bird to humans through water and sewage and on associated risks to exposed humans.

The purpose of this document is to summarize the available evidence on avian influenza-related risks to human health associated with water resources, water supplies and sanitation (management of human excreta). It is intended to serve as the scientific basis to inform a more general briefing note, including questions and answers, directed at public health authorities, those involved in the management of water resources and supplies, and the general public.

This document is periodically revised as more information becomes available. Questions and answers are being separately developed and will also be periodically updated. To this end, we welcome comments, which may be submitted via email to WSHavianflu@who.int.

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