News / Health

New China Bird Flu a Reminder of Mutant Virus Risk

FILE- Health officials in protective suits transport sacks of poultry as part of preventive measures against the H7N9 bird flu at a poultry market in Zhuji, Zhejiang province, Jan. 6, 2014.
FILE- Health officials in protective suits transport sacks of poultry as part of preventive measures against the H7N9 bird flu at a poultry market in Zhuji, Zhejiang province, Jan. 6, 2014.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— The death of a woman in China from a strain of bird flu previously unknown in humans is a reminder of the ever-present potential pandemic threat from mutating animal viruses, scientists said on Wednesday.
 
The new strain, called H10N8, has so far infected only two people - a fatal case in a 73-year-old and another in a woman who is critically ill in hospital. But the fact it has jumped from birds to humans is an important warning, they said.
 
“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,” said Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome Trust and an expert on flu.
 
“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.”
 
Chinese authorities last week confirmed a second human case of H10N8 which was reported for the first known time in humans in December 2013.
 
It has emerged as another new and often fatal strain of bird flu, called H7N9, has infected at least 286 people in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, killing around 60 of them.
 
Genetic Reassortment
 
Chinese scientists writing in The Lancet medical journal who conducted a genetic analysis on samples of the H10N8 virus from the woman who died said it was a new genetic reassortment of other strains of bird flu viruses, including one called H9N2 that is relatively well known in poultry in China.
 
Somewhat worryingly, the virus - like H7N9 - has also evolved “some genetic characteristics that may allow it to replicate efficiently in humans”, said Yuelong Shu of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing.
 
According to the scientists' study of her case, the 73-year-old victim, from Nanchang City in eastern China, was admitted to hospital with fever and severe pneumonia on November 30, 2013. Despite being treated with antibiotic and antivirals, she deteriorated rapidly, developed multiple organ failure and died nine days after her symptoms first started.
 
Investigations found the woman had been at a live poultry market a few days before becoming infected. But no H10N8 virus was found in samples collected from the market, the scientists said, so the source of the infection remains unknown.
 
Mingbin Liu from Nanchang City Center for Disease Control and Prevention added that the emergence of a second human case of H10N8 in a 55-year-old woman “is of great concern because it reveals that the H10N8 virus has continued to circulate and may cause more human infections in future”.
 
John McCauley, head of the WHO Collaborating Center for Influenza at Britain's National Institute for Medical Research said the emergence of H10N8, and of H7N9 “reminds us to be aware of human infections from animal influenza viruses.
 
“Previously we did not think that H7N9 infections might be so lethal. Now we also must consider H10N8 infections as well,” he said in an emailed comment.
 
He added, however, that the risk of this virus spreading from person to person “seems low since the H10N8 virus is not expected to be transmitted well between humans”.
 
Other flu experts not directly involved in the study on H10N8 agreed it was an important reminder of the potential threat from circulating and mutating flu viruses, but said it did not appear to be a particular concern for the moment.
 
Ben Neuman, a virologist at Britain's University of Reading said while the fatal H10N8 case was a “personal tragedy for the family and friends of the victim” and needed to be watched closely, “there is no cause for alarm at this time”.

You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid