A newly emerged stain of avian influenza, H5N6, is spreading throughout southeast Asia, warned the United Nations Foods and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FAO is calling for close monitoring as the virus has proven to be highly pathogenic and has the ability to spread rapidly across even distant countries. The H5N6 virus was first reported in China in April and has since been reported in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Vietnam.

“An H5N6 outbreak or outbreaks could potentially overwhelm animal health systems in Southeast Asia. An earlier strain of the virus has already impacted the livelihoods of millions of people and caused billions of dollars of damage,” FAO said. FAO is urging countries to remain vigilant and support poultry producers in following biosecurity measures.