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China Detects First Human Case of H3N8 Bird Flu Strain

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Mar 08, 2023

    China Detects First Human Case of H3N8 Bird Flu Strain

    A new strain of bird flu, designated H3N8, has been detected in humans in China’s central province of Henan. However, health officials say there is a low risk of widespread transmission.

    What Is Bird Flu?

    Avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, refers to a disease caused by an infection from avian (bird) influenza Type A viruses. This highly contagious viral disease first appeared in humans in the 1990s. It can infect domestic poultry as well as other bird and animal species. 

    Usually, bird flu viruses do not infect humans. However, it is possible for human infection to occur with such viruses.

    Some primary signs and symptoms of the condition appear quickly, including the following:

    Other early signs and symptoms include:

    The severity of bird flu virus infections ranges from no symptoms to mild illness to severe disease. Severe cases can result in death.

    Treatment with antiviral medicine as soon as possible may prevent complications and lower the risk of severe infection. 

    H3N8 continues to circulate since 2002 when it first appeared in North American waterfowl. This particular type of strain infects horses, dogs, and seals, but there have been no recorded cases in humans. 

    The First Human Case of H3N8 in China

    The National Health Commission of China (NHC) announced on Tuesday (April 26) that a four-year-old boy from central Henan province tested positive for H3N8 after being admitted to the hospital earlier this month with a fever and other symptoms.

    According to the NHC, the boy’s family has chickens at home and they lived in an area populated by wild ducks. He was directly infected by birds, and it revealed that the strain lacks “the ability to effectively infect humans.”  In addition, the commission shared that the boy’s close human contacts have “no abnormalities.”

    His case is a “one-time cross-species transmission, with a low risk of large-scale transmission.”

    Nonetheless, the NHC advised the public to avoid dead or sick birds. Moreover, immediate medical attention is advised if anyone should experience fever or respiratory symptoms.

    Rare Human-to-Human Transmission of Bird Flu

    Avian influenza primarily affects wild birds and poultry. Human-to-human transmission is extremely rare.

    According to the chief of the Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine unit of San Lazaro Hospital Dr. Rontgene Solante, “‘Yung avian influenza is common, marami na talagang avian influenza na dumaan. This is purely a type of influenza na sa mga bird lang, sa mga avian, and rarely it can infect humans.” 

    The World Health Organization also asserted that human infections with zoonotic, or animal-borne, influenzas are “primarily acquired through direct contact with infected animals or contaminated environments, but do not result in efficient transmission of these viruses between people.”

    “So halimbawa, from an avian to a human, it is possible na mahawaan ang tao but rarely ‘yung positive na human will transmit it to another human,” Dr. Solante said.

    “Very rare ang human-to-human transmission. It’s always an avian and then ‘yung mga nagtrabaho sa mga poultry na mayroong nagkasakit na mga manok na mayroong ganitong avian virus, pwedeng mahawaan,” he added.

    According to the US Centers for Disease Control, the H5N1 and H7N9 strains of bird flu, discovered in 1997 and 2013, respectively, have been responsible for the majority of cases of human illness from avian influenza.

    Many blamed H3N8 bird flu for the deaths of more than 160 seals off the U.S. northeastern coast in 2012. The virus strain caused deadly pneumonia in animals. 

    Learn more about Health News here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Mar 08, 2023

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