China has recently reported the first known case of specific type of bird flu called H10N3 that has infected a human. According to China’s National Health Commission (NHC), on April 23rd, a 41-year-old Chinese man from the city of Zhenjiang developed a fever that got worse and he ended up being hospitalized on April 28th. The man is in stable condition and will soon be released from the hospital.
After extensive analysis, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) confirmed that the man was infected with H10N3. At that point, the CCDC began monitoring the man’s family and close contacts as well as the province of Jiangsu to find out if there were any additional infections and so far they haven’t found any. The CCDC did not reveal how the man became infected with the virus.
This is quite startling news as normally the H10N3 strain of the avian influenza causes mild diseases in birds but has never been transferred to a human – at least until now. The World Health Organization (WHO) weighed in by telling Reuters, “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,” adding, “As long as avian influenza viruses circulate in poultry, sporadic infection of avian influenza in humans is not surprising, which is a vivid reminder that the threat of an influenza pandemic is persistent.”
It has been described as “not a very common virus” as approximately 160 isolates of the virus have been confirmed in the 40 years prior to 2018 and was detected mostly in wild birds or waterfowl in Asia and certain parts of North America. There have been no known infections in chickens thus far.
On the other hand, very rarely the avian flu can cause outbreaks among humans, like in 2016-2017 when about 300 people died from the H7N9 strain. Then in 1957, when the H2N2 strain caused a pandemic and the 1918 pandemic that was caused by the H1N1 strain.
It’s important to note that so far there is no evidence that H10N3 can easily spread to humans and that so far this is an isolated event. The NHC went on to say that it probably won’t cause a large outbreak. Let’s hope they’re right as we all know what happened with COVID-19.