Rare human death from bird flu reported in China – Here’s what you need to know about the disease


A woman in China has become the first person in the world to die from a strain of bird flu rarely found in humans, according to the World Health Organization confirmed Wednesday as concerns grow over the risk bird flu outbreaks pose to humans.


A 56-year-old woman from Guangdong province in southern China has died after contracting H3N8, a form of bird flu, the WHO said.

She fell ill in late February, was hospitalized with severe pneumonia in early March and died on March 16, the WHO said.

The agency said the woman, who had “several underlying conditions”, was likely infected at a wet market selling live poultry, where scientists later detected the virus, while stressing that more research will be done. necessary to make sure.

The woman is one of only three people known to have been infected with this particular strain of bird flu after China reported two separate infections last year and she is the first to die from it.

None of the woman’s contacts had contracted the virus or developed symptoms when China reported the case in late March, the UN agency said, adding that there were no signs that the virus can spread easily among humans and that the risk of spread is “low”. .

The WHO said human infections with animal influenza variants are rare and usually follow close exposure to live or dead animals harboring the virus, with potential symptoms ranging from conjunctivitis and mild flu-like symptoms to neurological problems, severe respiratory illness or even death.

Peg News

Avian influenza can be fatal to birds, but infections in humans are generally sporadic and limited to cases of close contact with infected animals, wild or domestic. The virus can quickly tear flocks apart with devastating effect and can wreak havoc on the poultry industry. An unprecedented pandemic, driven by a different strainH5N1, has integrated into bird populations around the world and has shown a disturbing ability to cause epidemics among mammals, causing scientists to fear that it could sow a deadly new pandemic in humans. Influenza, especially that which “spills over” from animals, has been responsible for some of the deadliest human epidemics in history. H3N8 is a different type of bird flu than the one causing chaos and consternation around the world and officials believe it poses less of a threat to humans than H5N1. However, the WHO warns that it still needs to be watched closely given the virus’ ability to mutate. Besides birds, the virus has been found in a number of mammalian species, including dogs and horses.

crucial quote

“This human case of H3N8 virus infection is not believed to pose a risk to U.S. public health at this time,” the CDC said in a statement. statement.

To monitor

The WHO has stressed the importance of prompt investigation and diligent virus surveillance when dealing with a fast-moving virus like influenza, especially given its well-documented history of outbreaks. in man. The delay by Chinese officials in reporting the case to international health authorities – a month elapsed between when officials learned of the infection and when they informed the WHO – far exceeds the 24-hour limit for reporting human infections with animal influenza viruses set by international law. The delay comes on top of widespread criticism of China for allegedly hiding crucial data about the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, including from the WHO, which Beijing strenuously denies.

Further reading

First birds, now mammals: How H5N1 is killing thousands of sea lions in Peru (Guardian)

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