First Human Case Of Infection From H10N8 Bird Flu Detected In China
December 18, 2013

First Human Case Of Infection From H10N8 Bird Flu Detected In China

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

A bird flu strain not previously seen in humans has been reported by Chinese health authorities to have infected a 73-year-old woman in east China’s Jiangxi Provincial capital of Nanchang.

China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement on Wednesday confirming the strain H10N8 in a sample taken from the woman, who died of respiratory failure on Dec. 6.  The statement did not mention if the woman’s death was directly connected to the bird flu virus.

The woman was admitted to the hospital on Nov. 30 and initially diagnosed with severe pneumonia. She also had high blood pressure, a neuromuscular disorder and heart disease. It was known that the woman had visited a live bird market before becoming sick but her relatives who have been in close contact with her have so far shown no symptoms.

The World Health Organization (WHO) called this newly confirmed human strain of H10N8 “worrisome.”

Timothy O’Leary, a spokesman for the WHO’s regional office in Manila, said it would not be surprising if another human case was detected. He noted that officials from WHO were now working closely with China’s health agencies to better understand the new virus.

"It's worrisome any time a disease jumps the species barrier from animals to humans. That said, the case is under investigation [by Chinese authorities] and there's no evidence of human-to-human transmission yet," O'Leary told The Associated Press.

China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) issued a release stating that it is likely that the risk of human infection is low, after an assessment ruled the death of the woman to be an individual case.

Elderly people and those with compromised immunities, much like the patient, are most susceptible to serious health outcomes from any flu strain, be it H10N8, H5N1 or the current H7N9 outbreak that has been affecting people in China since last March, killing 45 of the 140 patients it has so far infected.

The possible spread of H10N8 is no big concern for one researcher.

"I think this is an outlier," Dr. Leo Poon, associate professor of public health at the University of Hong Kong, told CNN’s Madison Park, adding that this is only one death from one confirmed case of H10N8.

While this was the first human case from the H10N8 strain, it is not the first case of the H10 subtype to make its way into humans. In 2010, two Australians tested positive for an H10 subtype infection, according to a study appearing on the CDC website.

“In March 2010, an outbreak of low pathogenicity avian influenza A (H10N7) occurred on a chicken farm in Australia. After processing clinically normal birds from the farm, 7 abattoir workers reported conjunctivitis and minor upper respiratory tract symptoms. Influenza virus A subtype H10 infection was detected in 2 workers,” said that study.

Previous reports have confirmed the H10N8 strain in live bird markets in Guangdong Province in China, as well as in the Dongting Lake wetland.

Dr. Poon told CNN that H7N9 is “far more serious” than H10N8. While the scope of the disease still remains largely unknown, nearly a third of H7N9 victims have died, making it a serious disease.

Still, Chinese health experts urge that people should not panic. While H7N9 is serious, the human-to-human transmission sustainability remains low, meaning that most infections occur from direct contact with infected live poultry.

The H7N9 outbreak, which ignited like a wildfire in March, 2013, was quickly subdued after mass culling of live poultry market birds, keeping a potential pandemic from stirring up. Through mid-summer, only a handful of cases cropped up. But as fall approached, more cases began appearing, as health experts suspected might occur.

Some health experts still argue that H7N9 has the potential to cause a pandemic, despite the current low transmissibility among humans.

As well, other bird flu strains are posing similar threats

“Experts are cautious when it comes to bird flu viruses infecting humans. They have been closely watching the H5N1 bird flu virus, which has killed 384 people worldwide since 2003. The virus remains hard to catch with most human infections linked to contact with infected poultry, but scientists fear it could mutate and spread rapidly among people, potentially sparking a pandemic,” reads a statement from the AP.