What is happening
A case of H3N8 flu has been detected in a 4-year-old boy in China.
why is it important
It’s the first time the virus has jumped from animals to humans – but it looks like a one-off jump and the risk of further spread is low.
The first case of H3N8 avian flu has been recorded in China, according to a report by Reuters on Tuesday.
Chinese National Health Commission issued a statement Tuesday confirming that a 4-year-old boy was infected with the strain of bird flu. The boy, from central China’s Henan province, had close contact with wild chickens and ducks and caught a fever on April 5. He was admitted to hospital on April 10.
The National Health Commission said it believed the virus did not yet have the ability to effectively infect humans.
H3N8 has not been detected in humans before, but the influenza strain causes disease in birds, horses and dogs. Some studies have linked the 1889 Russian pandemic to the strain, but this has never been proven.
“These early infections should always be treated thoroughly and comprehensively with sensitive testing of contacts to ensure that no further spread has occurred or is in progress,” said Ian Mackay, virologist at the University of Queensland, Australia.
Mackay notes that these jumps happen occasionally and will continue to happen “as we live very close to virus hosts.” The case appears to be isolated for the 4-year-old boy, with the National Health Commission saying close contacts have been tested but none have shown signs of infection.
The incidence of animal-to-human transmission (zoonosis) is expected to increase as humans further encroach on the natural habitats of disease-carrying species. Recent studies suggest that climate change further increase the incidence of zoonoses.