China Bird Flu Strain Infects Human in First Reported Case Globally

A man hospitalized with a fever in eastern China has been confirmed as the world's first human case of H10N3 bird flu infection, the country's top health authority reported on Tuesday.

The 41-year-old resident of Zhenjiang, in the coastal Jiangsu province, developed a fever and other undisclosed symptoms on April 23 and was admitted to a local health facility on April 28, China's National Health Commission (NHC) said in a press release on its website.

Last Friday, subsequent sequencing done by the Beijing-based Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention identified the pathogen as the H10N3 strain of avian influenza, said the NHC.

No other cases of H10N3 infection in humans have ever been reported anywhere else in the world, the commission noted. However, the source of the Zhenjiang infection remains unclear.

The statement said the patient, who was not named, was in stable condition and would be discharged soon. Provincial authorities in Jiangsu quarantined his close contacts, who continue to be monitored, but no anomalies have been discovered thus far.

According to China's national health agency, the province was ordered to carry out epidemic prevention measures and form a task force for risk assessment. Further analysis confirmed H10N3 as having avian origins, while the pathogen was also not effective at human-to-human transmission.

As H10N3 is a strain of low pathogenicity among poultry, experts have concluded that the Zhenjiang infection was "one exceptional case" of avian-to-human cross-species transmission, said the NHC, adding that "the risk of a large-scale outbreak is extremely low."

The commission's statement advised the public to avoid sick or dead poultry. It also advised against direct contact with live poultry, while those with fevers or respiratory symptoms should wear a mask and seek medical attention, it added.

Wuhan University pathologist Yang Zhanqiu told Communist Party newspaper the Global Times on Tuesday that H10N3 spreads through respiratory droplets among avian species and is deadly to wild birds and poultry.

Yang said the Zhenjiang patient most likely contracted the bird flu strain from sick poultry.

"It presents a low risk to humans and there is no evidence to indicate that H10N3 virus can cause human-to-human transmission," Yang was quoted.

Last February, a city in central China culled nearly 18,000 chickens following an outbreak of H5N1 bird flu.

The strain is highly pathogenic among poultry and rarely infects humans. However, rare cases of human infection have led to a fatality rate of 60 percent, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

China Reports New Case of Bird Flu
File photo: A duck darm in Suichuan, Jiangxi, China, where H7N9 bird flu deaths were reported in 2014. STR/AFP via Getty Images