China recorded the first case of H10N3 avian influenza in a human. The patient is a 41-year-old man from Jiangsu province, in the east of the country. The information was confirmed on Tuesday by the country’s National Health Commission (NHC), which characterizes the case as “accidental”.
According to the agency, the man was hospitalized on April 28 after developing fever and other flu symptoms and was diagnosed with the H10N3 virus on May 28. Details of how the infection occurred were not shared, but he is recovered and will leave the hospital soon.
The Chinese health commission said it monitored the people closest to the patient and found no other cases of the infection.
“Experts believe that analysis of the complete genome of the virus showed that the H10N3 strain was of animal origin and has not yet adapted to infect humans effectively,” said a statement from the Chinese health agency. “This infection is an accidental transmission between species of animals to humans. The risk of transmission on a large scale is very low.”
H10N3 is a low pathogenic virus strain, relatively less severe in poultry, and the risk of spreading on a large scale is very low, added the NHC.
The strain “is not a very common virus,” said Filip Claes, regional laboratory coordinator at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Emergency Center for Transboundary Animal Diseases (FAO).
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Only about 160 cases of the virus have been reported in 40 years until 2018, mostly in wild or waterfowl in Asia and parts of North America, and no cases have been detected in chickens so far, he added.
Analysis of the virus’s genetic data will be needed to determine whether it resembles older viruses or whether it is a new mix of different viruses, Claes said.
Benjamin Cowling, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Hong Kong, told the South China Morning Post that new human infections with avian influenza viruses are always a concern. “This reminds us of the threat posed by zoonotic infections. Hopefully, this specific case is only a sporadic one and we will not hear any more about any H10N3 infections.”
Many different strains of bird flu are present in China and some infect people – usually those who work with birds – sporadically.
There hasn’t been a significant number of human infections with bird flu since the H7N9 strain killed about 300 people between 2016 and 2017.
No other cases of human infection with H10N3 have been reported in the world before, the NHC said.