First human case of H3N8 bird flu reported in 4-year-old boy in China

Baku, April 28, AZERTAC

A 4-year-old boy in China has become the first human case of the H3N8 strain of bird flu, according to news reports.

According to Live Science, the boy, who lives in Henan province, was exposed to chickens and crows at his home, which could have transmitted the virus, according to news reports. The boy was infected with an avian version of the H3N8 virus, though strains of this virus can also infect horses (known as equine influenza virus) and dogs (known as canine influenza virus. And now it has made the leap to humans, though the risk of it spreading from human to human is low, according to a Reuters report.

Though avian flu viruses originated in birds and don't easily spread to other animals, in rare cases, strains have adapted to infect other animals — such as dogs and horses — as well as humans, Live Science previously reported. Bird flu strains that have hopped to humans include: H5N1, H7N9, H5N6, H5N8 and now H3N8.

A genetic analysis of the Henan province case suggests the variant came about through a shuffling of genes from more than one avian flu virus, making it a reassortant. This type of mixed-up virus "can have unpredictable capacity in terms of transmission and virulence in human population," said Marius Gilbert, an epidemiologist at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium, as reported by The Guardian. This particular case of H3N8 holds genes from viruses previously found in poultry and wild birds, Reuters reported.

The fact that this variety of H3N8 has hopped to a human does not mean it can spread easily between humans, experts say. "We often see a virus spread to a human and then not spread any further so a single case is not a cause of great concern," said Sir Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases and global health at the University of Oxford, The Guardian reported.

In June of last year, China also reported the first human case of another bird flu, called H10N3, Live Science reported at the time. The 41-year-old man in the city of Zhenjiang was hospitalized but ultimately discharged.

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