A woman in China died of H3N8 bird flu, a virus that has been circulating since 2002 and has yet to cause human deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Tuesday, AFP reported, Agerpres reported.
The H3N8 virus, which first appeared on the North American continent, has so far been thought to be transmissible to horses, dogs and sea lions.
The virus was not detected in humans until the first two fatal cases in China in April and May 2022. The deceased man was 56 years old and lived in southeast China’s Guangdong Province.
The woman fell ill on February 22, was hospitalized with severe pneumonia on March 3 and died on March 16, WHO said. “None of the close contacts of this case have developed symptoms of infection or disease at the time of writing this report,” the WHO said in a document.
A year ago, China’s Ministry of Health reported the first human case of H3N8 bird flu. A four-year-old boy from the central province of Henan tested positive for the H3N8 strain after being hospitalized in early April 2022 with fever and other symptoms.
The patient’s family raised chickens and lived in an area with wild ducks. The boy was infected directly by birds, which the health ministry said at the time, following tests on people close to the patient that found “no abnormalities”.
The ministry also emphasized that the risk of widespread infection is low, but warned residents not to approach dead or sick birds and to consult a doctor if they develop fever or respiratory symptoms.
Cases of human-to-human transmission of bird flu are extremely rare. The H5N1 and H7N9 strains, identified in 1997 and 2013, were the main causes of bird flu in humans, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to a US study published in 2012, the H3N8 strain had caused fatal pneumonia in more than 160 seals along US coasts the previous year.
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