A 41-year-old man in China’s eastern province of Jiangsu has been confirmed as the first human case of infection with a rare strain of bird flu known as H10N3, Beijing’s National Health Commission (NHC) has said.
The man, a resident of the city of Zhenjiang, was hospitalized on April 28 and diagnosed with H10N3 on May 28, the health commission said on Tuesday, adding that his condition is stable. No other cases of human infection with H10N3 have been reported globally, it added.
H10N3 is low pathogenic, which means it causes relatively less severe disease in poultry and is unlikely to cause a large-scale outbreak, the NHC added.
The World Health Organization (WHO), in a reply to Reuters in Geneva, said: “The source of the patient’s exposure to the H10N3 virus is not known at this time, and no other cases were found in emergency surveillance among the local population. At this time, there is no indication of human-to-human transmission.
The risk of further infection with H10N3 is currently believed to be very low, with experts describing the case as “sporadic”.
“As long as avian influenza viruses circulate in poultry, sporadic infection of avian influenza in humans is not surprising, which is a vivid reminder that the threat of an influenza pandemic is persistent,” the WHO added.
The strain is “not a very common virus”, said Filip Claes, regional laboratory coordinator of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases at the regional office for Asia and the Pacific.
Such cases occur occasionally in China which has huge populations of both farmed and wild birds of many species.
The genetic sequence of the virus that infected the patient has not yet been published, and will be needed to fully assess its risk.
Scientists will want to know how easily H10N3 can infect human cells to determine if it could become a greater risk.