BEIJING, April 12 (Reuters) – A Chinese woman has become the first person to die from a strain of bird flu that is rare in humans, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, but the strain does not appear to spread between people.
The 56-year-old woman from the southern province of Guangdong is the third person known to be infected with the H3N8 subtype of avian influenza, the WHO said in a statement on Tuesday.
All the cases are in China, with the first two cases reported last year.
The Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported the third infection late last month but did not provide details of the woman’s death.
The patient had multiple underlying conditions, the WHO said, and a history of exposure to live chickens.
Sporadic human infections with bird flu are common in China where avian flu viruses continue to circulate in large populations of poultry and wild birds.
Samples collected from a wet market the woman visited before she fell ill tested positive for influenza A(H3), the WHO said, suggesting this may have been the source of the infection.
Although rare in humans, H3N8 is common in birds where it causes little to no signs of illness. It has also infected other mammals.
No other cases have been found among close contacts of infected women, the WHO said.
“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 its spread among people at the national, regional, and international levels is considered low, ” WHO said in the statement.
Surveillance of all avian influenza viruses is considered important because of their ability to evolve and cause pandemics.
Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Christopher Cushing
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