02 June 2021

First human case of rare bird flu strain reported in China

02 June 2021

The first human case of a rare strain of bird flu has been reported in China.

Although a 41-year-old man in eastern China has contracted the H10N3 strain, the risk of large-scale spread among people is low, the government said.

The man from Jiangsu province, north-west of Shanghai, was admitted to hospital on April 28 and is in a stable condition, the National Health Commission said on its website.

Until now, no human case of H10N3 has been reported elsewhere, the commission said.

The new case is H10N3 in China. This is the first case of that combination in humans

A statement read: “This infection is an accidental cross-species transmission.

“The risk of large-scale transmission is low.”

Bird flu, or avian flu, is caused by influenza viruses that spread between birds.

It can often spread easily between birds, but very rarely causes disease in humans.

Symptoms resemble normal flu – fever, cough, muscle aches, sore throat – but it can develop into a serious respiratory illness.

Dr John McCauley, WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza, The Francis Crick Institute, said: “Transmission to humans is usually by direct contact.

“The main bird flu episodes in man have been the H5N1 bird flu outbreak in Hong Kong in 1997 that was halted by closure of bird markets.

“In 2003 to 2004 this virus re-emerged and over the next 15 or so years resulted in over 800 identified cases with over 400 deaths.”

He added that over this period the virus evolved and a number of other cases were reported.

Dr McCauley said: “Mostly these infections are by those in very close contact with infected birds, poultry or ducks with direct exposure whilst handling them or in preparation of meat from the infected animal.

“Once cooked, infected meat poses a very low threat.

“The new case is H10N3 in China. This is the first case of that combination in humans.”

Dr Nicole Robb, assistant professor, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, said: “Most avian influenza viruses aren’t transmitted easily between humans.

“This is because they are adapted to spread well between birds.”

She added: “The good news is that the H10N3 bird flu virus is an ‘H10’ virus or ‘low pathogenic subtype’, meaning that it causes few signs of disease in birds and that these viruses also very rarely cause serious disease in humans.

“Viruses of the H5 or H7 subtype are more worrying as low pathogenic versions can infect poultry and evolve into highly pathogenic strains which cause fatal disease in birds and can cause serious illness in humans in the rare cases that humans have been infected.”

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