A woman in Southern China has tested positive for H3N8 avian influenza, according to local officials. This is the third time that the virus has infected humans, though experts believe that a previous strain may have been responsible for the 1889 pandemic.
According to the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the 56-year-old lives in Zhongshan City and has multiple underlying health conditions including multiple myeloma. The statement also said that she was in contact with live poultry before becoming sick as wild birds often roam near her home.
While details about her condition haven’t been released, the local CDC has said that her close contacts have shown no abnormalities. For now, they believe that it’s a rare sporadic case, which means the risk of transmission to other humans is low.
The news comes almost a year after a 4-year-old boy became seriously ill with the H3N8 virus in central China; it was also the first confirmed case in humans. The family’s pets, a cat and a dog, were also infected with the influenza virus.
According to China’s National Health Commission, the boy lived on a farm in the Henan Province and was often in contact with chickens and other poultry. He started to develop a fever on April 5, 2022 and was later admitted to a hospital five years later due to the severity of his symptoms. Close contact of the five-year-old were also tested and observed; experts found no abnormalities.
A second individual, a 5-year-old boy, was confirmed to have been infected a month later in Hunan province. Unlike the 4-year-old, however, he only had mild symptoms and recovered quickly.
Medical experts have advised individuals not to come into contact with sick or dead poultry. Not only that but it’s also recommended to avoid contact with live poultry.
What Is H3N8?
H3N8 is typically found in birds, however, it also affects horses and seals. Not only that but it’s also one of the viruses that are responsible for the dog flu. The 58-year-old woman is the third confirmed case in humans and the first adult to be infected.
While the H3N8 virus has typically only affected birds, experts believe that a previous strain may have been responsible for the “Russian flu” or “Asiatic Flu”, which caused the 1889 pandemic. However, more recent research suggests that it may have been caused by a strain of coronavirus.
Symptoms of H3N8 flu are very similar to the “regular flu” and often include a fever, sore throat, cough, headaches, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea (more often seen in young children) body aches, and a runny or stuffy nose.
While the H3N8 virus has the potential to cause another pandemic, experts aren’t worried as human-to-human transmission has not been reported so “there are no grounds for panic.” However, researchers are keeping an eye on the situation.