WHO Monitoring Reports of First Case of Human Infection With H10N3 Bird Flu Strain in China
Humans can typically be exposed to bird flu at live poultry markets like this one in Xining, China.

The World Health Organization(WHO) is working with Chinese authorities to assess the circumstances around the first documented case of human infection with a rare strain bird flu known as H10N3.

This is after a 41-year-old man in China’s eastern province of Jiangsu, located northwest of Shanghai, tested positive for H10N3 on May 28 – a month after he was hospitalised in an intensive care unit on 28 April.

The China’s National Health Commission (NHC) alerted WHO on Tuesday of the detection of human infection with avian influenza. No other cases of human infection with H10N3 have been reported globally, it added.

The Chinese authorities, however, provided no details on how the man was infected.

Although this is the first case of infection with the H10N3 strain, other bird flu strains have been found to have high mortality rates in humans – thus the heightened concerns over human infection with any new strain of the virus.

While there are instances of human-to-human infection with other deadly bird flu strains, they have been rare.

“WHO, through the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) continuously monitors influenza viruses, including those with pandemic potential, and conducts risk assessments,” WHO said in response to a query from Health Policy Watch.

The Chinese NHC said it has instructed Jiangsu Province to carry out prevention and control measures in accordance with relevant plans, and that it has organised expert risk assessments.

“Experts assessed that the whole gene analysis of the virus showed that the H 10 N 3 virus was of avian origin and did not have the ability to effectively infect humans, the NHC asserted. 

No human cases of H10N3 have been reported globally , and the H10N3 virus among poultry is low pathogenic to poultry.

No Published WHO Alert So Far

While acknowledging China’s report, WHO said that it had not yet posted any information about the incident on its website.

However, in its response, WHO stressed that it was not merely relying on reports from Chinese authorities, but was also using its International Health Regulations (IHR) and the Epidemic Intelligence from Open Sources (EIOS) to monitor and investigate the matter.

“Under the IHR, there is the possibility for WHO to take into account reports from sources other than notifications or consultations,” said WHO.

It said the GISRS, through its various surveillance, monitoring and alert systems,  is in place to protect people from the threat of influenza.

The Chinese man is now in a stable condition and he is ready to be discharged.  Emergency surveillance of the local population found no other cases, the Chinese reports stated.

Avian influenza Type A viruses infect the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts of birds and have been found in more than 100 different species of wild birds around the world, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While these viruses don’t normally infect humans, birds can shed virus in their saliva, mucous and faeces, the CDC says. Human infections can occur if enough virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose, or mouth.

Experts suggest that the public should avoid contact with sick or dead poultry , try to avoid direct contact with live birds, pay attention to food hygiene , and improve self-protection awareness. It urged the public to seek medical help if they experience flu-like symptoms and respiratory problems.

Symptoms of avian influenza A virus infections can be accompanied by nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and severe respiratory illness, according to the CDC. 

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons.

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