China Reports First Human Death From H3N8 Avian Flu; WHO Issues Advice
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported the first death of a human due to the H3N8 avian influenza strain in China on Wednesday.
China's National Health Commission informed WHO of a single case of human infection with avian influenza A(H3N8) virus on 27 March 2023.
The country has reported its third case of human infection with avian influenza A (H3N8) virus, as reported by WHO.
Media reports state that H3N8, which emerged in North American waterfowl in 2002, infects horses, dogs, and seals.
China had reported its first two non-fatal cases in humans last year, in April and May.
A 56-year-old woman from Guangdong, China, fell ill on 22 February and was hospitalised for severe pneumonia on 3 March. She tragically died on 16 March, according to the WHO.
The patient with underlying conditions was detected via the severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) surveillance system, as revealed by the global health agency.
“She had a history of exposure to live poultry before the onset of the disease, and a history of wild bird presence around her home. No close contacts of the case developed an infection or symptoms of illness at the time of reporting,” WHO reported.
Health officials' preliminary investigation suggests that exposure to a live poultry market may have caused the infection. The exact source of the infection and how the virus is related to other avian influenza A(H3N8) viruses circulating in animals remains unclear, as per WHO.
Contact with infected poultry or contaminated environments typically causes human cases of bird flu, as noted by physicians and public health specialists.
To minimise the risk of infection, countries should increase public awareness of the importance of avoiding contact with high-risk environments such as live animal markets/farms, live poultry, or surfaces that may be contaminated by poultry or bird faeces.
It is recommended to maintain good hand hygiene by frequently washing hands or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer and wearing respiratory protection when in a risky environment.
Given the observed extent and frequency of avian influenza cases in wild birds and some wild mammals, the public should avoid contact with animals that are sick or dead from unknown causes and should report the occurrence to the authorities.
Travellers to countries with known outbreaks of animal influenza should avoid farms, contact with animals in live animal markets, entering areas where animals may be slaughtered, or contact with any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with animal faeces or other body fluids.
Travellers should also wash their hands often with soap and water and follow good food safety and good food hygiene practices.
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