New bird flu strain H10N8 claims first life in China

bird fluA new strain of bird flu has claimed one victim in China, prompting fears that it could spread and leave more victims in its deadly path.

A previously unknown sub-strain of the H10N8 virus was responsible for the death of a 73-year-old woman in December last year, initially admitted to hospital in China suffering with fever and pneumonia.

The woman, from Nanchang City in Jiangxi province, was known to have been at a poultry market in the days leading up to her falling ill. Health experts therefore estimate an incubation time of around four days, around the same as other strains of bird flu.

The victim became ill at the end of November and then succumbed to her condition just nine days later on 6 December, in spite of receiving antibiotic and antiviral treatment.

Scientists speaking to The Lancet say this strain of influenza A virus has not previously been seen and the possibility of it escalating to pandemic levels “should not be underestimated”.

Tests on the H10N8 virus show it is alarmingly developed genetic characteristics which could enable it to replicate more efficiently in humans.

Although there has been no evidence of human-to-human transmission, there is still a worry this could yet occur and claim more victims, especially with the emergence of a second person to have been tested positive for the virus in January.

Dr Yuelong Shu, from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, said: “A genetic analysis of the H10N8 virus shows a virus that is distinct from previously reported H10N8 viruses, having evolved some genetic characteristics that may allow it to replicate efficiently in humans.”

Dr Mingbin Liu from Nanchang City Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said: “A second case of H10N8 was identified in Jiangxi province, China, on 26 January 2014. This is of great concern because it reveals that the H10N8 virus has continued to circulate and may cause more human infections in future.”

The H10N8 virus is the latest in a number of bird flu strains to hit a country still trying to manage an outbreak of a similar influenza virus named H7N9, which has killed approximately a quarter of those who contracted the infection.

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