New Bird Flu Strain Claims Human Life


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The new H10N8 strain of the bird flu, which had previously not been known to infect humans, has been confirmed as the cause of death of a 73 year old woman in Jiangxi province in China on Dec. 6.

She had been admitted to the hospital on Nov. 30 with severe pneumonia. None of the people she had been in contact with were sickened, authorities reported.

A recent visit to a poultry market is how authorities believe she contracted the virus. And although officials in China have yet to confirm the death is related to the new strain of bird flu, the World Health Organization (WHO) told Reuters that was the case.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control also confirmed it was what infected the woman, and are growing concerned due to another recent outbreak of bird flu, namely the H7N9 strain that has infected at least 140 people this spring, killing 45 people in mainland China.

The H7N9 broke out in March 2013, and by the end of October, WHO reported there had been 137 laboratory-confirmed human cases of H7N9 in China, including 45 deaths, but that there had been no sustainable evidence of transmission between humans.

Report from WHO states: “Owing in part to the emergence of avian influenza A(H7N9) virus and infections of humans with this virus in China, there is enhanced surveillance for various subtypes of avian influenza in both humans and animals in China, the countries neighboring China, and globally,” the report says. “It is therefore expected that more influenza … events in humans and animals will be detected and reported, as well as identification and reporting of infections with a variety of other influenza subtypes and reassortant viruses.”

H7N9 is still active in the population and that has officials concerned. Mostly because it could spread with a vengeance when China's flu season is in full force. Researchers worry viral mutations could help it pass easily between people, increasing its pandemic probabilities.

Experts claim the world is overdue for a pandemic, such as the one that killed millions of people in the early 1900's.

China is especially susceptible because of their open poultry markets. It is a breeding ground for viruses due to cramped conditions for chickens, along with the stress involved in these places - adding to the vulnerability of the birds getting sick.

You can't keep thousands of chickens cramped up in tiny quarters and not expect something to go wrong.

Image via Wikimedia Commons