Two young boys were also infected with the same virus in unrelated cases in China last year, but both survived.
China reports first human death due to H3N8 bird flu
The WHO says the woman, who died in March, probably contracted the virus at a live poultry market and the risk of further spread is low.
12 Apr 2023
A 56-year-old woman in southern China has died after testing positive for H3N8 avian influenza, marking the first human death from that strain of bird flu, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
While H3N8 is “one of the most frequently found” subtypes of flu in birds, it had not been detected in humans before two cases emerged in April and May last year, both in China.
In a statement, the WHO said the woman, who had pre-existing medical conditions including cancer, had been admitted to hospital with severe pneumonia after falling ill in February. She died last month.
“The case was detected through the severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) surveillance system. No close contacts of the case developed an infection or symptoms of illness at the time of reporting,” WHO said in its statement on Monday.
All three people who contracted H3N8 in China are thought to have been exposed to the virus at live poultry markets. The United Nations health agency said the Chinese government had stepped up monitoring for the strain and that the risk of more infections was low.
“However, due to the constantly evolving nature of influenza viruses, WHO continues to stress the importance of global surveillance to detect virologic, epidemiologic and clinical changes associated with circulating influenza viruses which may affect human (or animal) health,” it said.
The H3N8 infection is unrelated to the H5N1 bird flu pandemic, which has devastated poultry and wild birds around the world in the last 18 months and has spread to mammals including foxes, bears and domestic cats.
Experts think the victim contracted the lethal virus after a visit to a wet market where live birds were sold
By Sarah Newey, Global Health Security Correspondent, in Bangkok 11 April 2023 • 4:27pm
A 56-year-old woman in China has died after contracting H3N8 bird flu, the first known fatality in a human from this strain of avian influenza.
While H3N8 is “one of the most frequently found” subtypes of flu found in birds, the woman is only the third person known to have caught the virus and the first to have died.
Two young boys were infected with the same virus in unrelated cases in China last year, but both survived.
According to a World Health Organization report, the woman developed symptoms in late February and died on March 16. She had “multiple underlying conditions” and is thought to have caught the virus at a wet market, where scientists tracing her exposure collected samples positive for H3N8.