THE first known case of a new bird flu has been reported in China.

A 41-year-old man has been hospitalised with the H10N3 strain of bird flu, health officials said on Tuesday.

Bird flu has caused serious outbreaks in the past, namely in 2016-2017 when 300 people were killed by the H7N9 strain.

There are many different strains of bird flu present in China and some randomly infect people, usually those working with poultry.

The risk of the H10N3 type spreading is considered “low”, China’s National Health Commission (NHC) said.

No other cases of human infection with H10N3 have previously been reported globally, the agency added.

What are the symptoms?

Health officials did not give a detailed report of what the symptoms of the H10N3 strain are.

But generally, the symptoms of bird flu are:

  • a very high temperature or feeling hot or shivery
  • aching muscles
  • headache
  • a cough

Early signs may also include: 

  • diarrhoea
  • sickness
  • stomach pain
  • chest pain
  • bleeding from the nose and gums
  • conjunctivitis

The infection, which starts causing symptoms after three to five days, can lead to more serious health concerns.

It’s possible to develop pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome, which can lead to death.

Who is the patient?

The man is a resident of the eastern city of Zhenjiang, in the eastern province of Jiangsu.

He was hospitalised April 28 after developing a fever and other symptoms before being diagnosed with the H10N3 strain of bird flu on May 28.

But he is now in stable condition and preparing to be discharged from the hospital.

It’s unclear how exactly he became infected with H10N3, but health officials said it was a case of “accidental cross-species transmission”.

Has it spread?

None of the patient’s close contacts have contracted the virus, the NHC said.

It added that it is a low pathogenic virus, suggesting it is not very contagious.

“The risk of large-scale transmission is low,” the commission said.

“This infection is an accidental cross-species transmission."

How common is it?

Filip Claes, a lab coordinator with the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases, said H10N3 is rare.

There have been only around 160 isolates of the virus detected over the course of 40 years.

Most of the cases have been in wild birds or waterfowl in Asia and in some parts of North America, he said.

What is bird flu?

Bird flu, or avian flu, is an infectious flu that spreads among birds but sometimes can affect humans.

There are 4 strains that have caused concern in recent years, which are

  1. H5N1 (since 1997)
  2. H7N9 (since 2013)
  3. H5N6 (since 2014)
  4. H5N8 (since 2016)

It manages to spillover into humans when they touch infected birds, their droppings or bedding, or kill and prepare the bird for cooking.

You can't catch bird flu through eating fully cooked poultry or eggs, even in areas with an outbreak of bird flu.

Is there bird flu in the UK?

No humans have been infected with these in the UK, but there are occassional outbreaks in poultry and wild birds, including H5N8.

There were 14 clusters of H5N8 in England during 2020 and 2021, including in Cheshire where a temporary restriction zone was set up around a farm in March while thousands of turkeys were culled.

Several other European countries have seen outbreaks of the viruses in birds, with Germany having to kill 29,000 chickens in 2020 to halt the spread of H5N8.

Markets where live birds are sold can also be a source of bird flu, which is why it has not been a problem in the UK so far.

But there are measures you can take when going abroad, including to wash your hands regularly and especially before and after handling food.

What outbreaks have been caused before?

The worst outbreak caused by bird flu was the “fifth” epidemic of H7N9, which began in 2016 in China.

The country had already dealt with several waves of the strain since 2013.

A total number to 759 infections and 281 deaths were reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC.

In total around 1,200 people have been diagnosed with this strain of H7N9 since it first cropped up, and around 40 per cent have died.

The WHO has identified H7N9 as "an unusually dangerous virus for humans”.

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