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China reports first human death from H3N8 bird flu

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a Chinese woman has become the first person to die from a type of bird flu that is uncommon in humans, but the strain does not appear to transmit between people.

The WHO announced late Tuesday that the 56-year-old lady from the southern province of Guangdong was the third person confirmed to have been infected with the H3N8 strain of avian influenza.

The incidents have all occurred in China, with the first two cases being disclosed last year.

The third illness was reported late last month by the Guangdong Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, but no information on the woman’s death was provided.

According to the WHO, the patient had many underlying illnesses and a history of exposure to live poultry.

Sporadic illnesses with bird flu are widespread in China, where avian flu viruses circulate constantly in vast poultry and wild bird populations.

According to the WHO, samples recovered from a wet market visited by the woman before she became ill tested positive for influenza A(H3), implying that this may have been the source of infection.

Though uncommon in humans, H3N8 is ubiquitous in birds, where it causes little to no sickness. Other mammals have also been affected.
According to the WHO, no further instances were discovered among the affected woman’s close contacts.

“Based on available information, it appears that this virus does not have the ability to spread easily from person to person, and therefore the risk of it spreading among humans at the national, regional, and international levels is considered to be low,” the WHO said in a statement.

Because of their capacity to develop and produce a pandemic, all avian influenza viruses must be monitored.

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