First Human Case Of H3N8 Bird Flu Reported In China

Typically, you don’t want to hear the words “first human case” and “bird flu” when your doctor walks into the room with your test results. But that’s what a four-year-old in Zhumadian City, Henan Province, China, may have heard recently. He’s become the first reported case of a human infected with the H3N8 avian influenza, according to an April 26 announcement from China’s National Health Commission (NHC).

How did he get the H3N8 bird flu? Well, maybe, just maybe, his raising chickens had something to do with it. Or perhaps it was the wild ducks around his home. While this particular strain of avian influenza A has made appearances in horses, dogs, and seals, it’s been most commonly found in birds. Hence the name “avian” influenza.

This fowl situation first became noticeable on April 5 is when the child and his family first noticed a fever and flu-like symptoms. Of course, such symptoms alone wouldn’t have made anyone go, “What the cluck?” However, these symptoms progressively worsened until the four-year-old was admitted to the hospital on April 10. Eventually, testing on April 24 by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that he was infected with the H3N8 avian influenza virus.

Before you begin flapping your arms in a panic, keep in mind that testing of the child’s close contacts, close human contacts that is, did not find anyone else infected with the virus. Thus, there’s been no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the H3N8 bird flu.

That’s key because concerns about a human epidemic or even a pandemic start to arise when a novel virus can readily spread from one human to others in a sustained manner. When your immune system first encounters a new virus, it can behave like a nervous guy on a date for the very first time. It doesn’t really know what to do and can end up firing in random directions. As a result, the virus can lead to more severe health outcomes and higher death rates. That’s what has happened recently with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). If you haven’t read the news since January 2020, there’s been something called the Covid-19 pandemic happening for the past couple years or so.

By contrast, for now, the risks of you or any other human getting infected with the H3N8 bird flu seem fairly low. This four-year-old certainly wasn’t the only person who’s spent time with chickens and ducks in Henan Province. But no one else seemed to get the H3N8 bird flu. Of course, if you do begin to flap your arms and realize that they are actually wings and have feathers, your risks may be different.

The NHC announcement did include some warnings for people. They include wearing a face mask and seeking medical attention if you have a fever and respiratory symptoms, being very careful with raw meat, and avoiding direct contact with live poultry. They also warned that you should refrain from touching sick or dead poultry. If this last warning prompts you to say there go your weekend plans, such precautions should probably hold at all times, not just when a human case of an H3N8 avian influenza infection has occurred.

Even though the H3N8 avian influenza virus may not be that much of a threat to humans right now, this case is a reminder that there is a continuous risk of new viruses jumping from other animals to humans. In other words, you never know when a virus that normally infects chickens (or other birds) may cross the road over to the human side. As a result, it’s not a question as to if another real pandemic-threat will emerge. It’s a question of when. The big question is whether society will be better prepared the next time around.

Reference-www.forbes.com

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