A new deadly new bird flu strain H10N8 has been discovered in China. At least one has died from the brand-new bird flu strain.
In a study published in the Lancet medical journal, the new strain has been identified as a mutation of earlier flu virus H9N2 version. Already earlier reported in birds in China, the genes of the H10N8 were found "avian" in origin.
A health worker removes a dead chicken at a wholesale poultry market in Hong Kong January 28, 2014. Hong Kong began culling 20,000 chickens and suspended imports of fresh poultry from mainland China for 21 days on Tuesday after the discovery of the H7N9 bird flu virus in a batch of live chicken from the southern province of Guangdong. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
The first human case of the bird flu strain H10N8 was a 73-year-old China woman who died nine days after falling ill with the infection. She was admitted to the hospital on Nov 30 with severe pneumonia. Authorities theorized she caught the disease from a live poultry market after visiting the site a few days before she got sick.
Although the bird flu strain H10N8 has yet to show it can spread between humans, the global threat remains high because the Chinese avian influenza strains can spread among other animals, birds, who then infect humans afterwards.
"The pandemic potential of this novel virus should not be underestimated," the medical team wrote in the report published by the journal Lancet.
"The first human infection with novel avian influenza A H10N8 virus further increases the importance of surveillance for pandemic preparedness and response," they wrote.
Apart from H10N8, there are a number of bird flu strains circulating in China, including H7N9, H6N1, H5N1 and H9N2, among others.
The discoveries were being attributed to the government's increased surveillance for avian flu infections after the arrival of H7N9, the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy said.
Experts likewise believed the strains were not really novel.
"People have probably been dying of sporadic bird flu spillovers for eons, but we only noticed the ones that became pandemics," science journalist Alan Dove wrote on his Twitter.
Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome Trust and an expert on flu, told Reuters people should remain vigilant about new viruses coming up.
"We should always be worried when viruses cross the species barrier from birds or animals to humans, as it is very unlikely that we will have prior immunity to protect us," he said.
"We should be especially worried when those viruses show characteristics that suggest they have the capacity to replicate easily or to be virulent or resistant to drugs. This virus ticks several of these boxes and therefore is a cause for concern."