The first known human case of the H3N8 strain of bird flu has been recorded in China. The country’s National Health Commission on Tuesday said a four-year-old boy living in central Henan province tested positive for the strain. He had been hospitalised earlier this month with fever and other symptoms, news agency AFP reported. This is the first case of human infection with the H3N8 strain of avian flu. Here is all you need to know about it:
1. H3N8 is a subtype of the species Influenza A virus. It is known to infect birds, horses and dogs.
2. H3N8 is also known as equine influenza virus as it is the main cause of equine influenza – a highly-contagious respiratory disease that affects horses, donkeys, zebras and mules.
3. This strain does not have "the ability to effectively infect humans,” China’s National Health Commission said. The boy infected with H3N8 had been living in close proximity to chickens and wild ducks and was directly infected by the birds.
4. Many different strains of bird flu are present in China and occasionally infect humans. Cases are more frequent among people working in close contact with poultry.
5. The risk of this bird flu spreading among humans is low, according to China. The boy's case was a "one-off cross-species transmission, and the risk of large-scale transmission is low,” NHC said.
6. However, people in China have been warned to stay away from sick or dead birds and seek immediate treatment for respiratory troubles or fever.
7. According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Virology, H3N8 virus is highly adaptive as it is found in multiple avian and mammal hosts. It is capable of crossing the species barrier.
8. In 2012, H3N8 was blamed for the deaths of more than 160 seals off the northeastern coast of the United States after it caused deadly pneumonia in the animals.
9. At that time, a BBC report had pegged the virus as cause for concern as it had evolved to cause severe symptoms. "There is a concern that we have a new mammalian-transmissible virus to which humans haven't yet been exposed. It's a combination we haven't seen in disease before,” Dr Anne Moscona of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City had said in 2012.10. H3N8 influenza A virus that is closely related to a strain that is believed to have first emerged in North American waterfowl in 2002.