A 41-year-old man in eastern China has contracted what might be the world’s first human case of the H10N3 strain of bird flu, said Beijing’s National Health Commission (NHC) on 1 June.
According to reports, the man in Jiangsu province, northwest of Shanghai, was hospitalized on 28 April and diagnosed with H10N3 on 28 May.
As per the NHC, he is in stable condition now, and no human case of H10N3 has been reported elsewhere.
In a statement, it also said: “This infection is an accidental cross-species transmission”.
“The risk of large-scale transmission is low,” the statement added.
There have been many different strains in China, and some of them sporadically infect people, usually those who are working at a poultry farm.
But as of now, there is no evidence to support the idea that H10N3 can spread easily in humans.
In terms of the recent case, the health commission did not give details on how the man contracted the H10N3 virus.
As per Reuters, NHC said that the H10N3 is low pathogenic—means it causes relatively less severe disease in poultry, and it is also unlikely to cause a large-scale outbreak.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said: “The source of the patient’s exposure to the H10N3 virus is not known at this time and no other cases were found in emergency surveillance among the local population”.
“At this time, there is no indication of human-to-human transmission,” the UN agency added.
However, according to the WHO, as long as the avian influenza viruses circulate in poultry, sporadic infection of avian influenza in humans is not surprising, and this is a vivid reminder that the threat of “an influenza pandemic is persistent”.
Filip Claes, who is the regional laboratory coordinator of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases at the regional office for Asia and the Pacific, said that the bird-flu strain is “not a very common virus”.
According to him, only about 160 isolates of the virus—it [Virus isolate] indicates nothing except that the virus was isolated from an infected host—were reported in 40 years till 2018.
However, Claes said that most of these virus isolates were detected in wild birds or waterfowl in Asia and some limited parts of North America.
But as of now, none had been found in chickens, he added.
Claes suggested that analysis of the genetic data of the virus will be necessary to find out whether it resembles older viruses or if it is a mix of different viruses.
The announcement about the first human case of H10N3 bird flu comes as the coronavirus pandemic continues to kill people around the world, raising awareness of the risks of emerging diseases.
But unlike coronavirus, since the H5N1 strain emerged in Hong Kong’s crowded live-poultry markets in the late 1990s, there have been global influenza surveillance systems that keep an eye out for human cases of bird flu.
However, there have been no substantial numbers of human illnesses with bird flu since the H7N9 variant killed roughly 300 people between 2016 and 2017.
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