The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed the first human death caused by H3N8 avian influenza in southern China. The 56-year-old woman tested positive for the virus and died in March. The WHO stated that the woman contracted severe pneumonia after falling ill in February and was later admitted to the hospital.
H3N8, one of the most frequently found flu subtypes in birds, had not been detected in humans until two cases emerged in China in April and May last year. All individuals who contracted H3N8 in China are believed to have been exposed to the virus at live animal markets.
According to the WHO, the case was detected through the severe acute respiratory infection surveillance system, and no close contacts of the woman developed an infection or symptoms of illness at the time of reporting.
The organization emphasized the importance of global surveillance for detecting virologic, epidemiologic, and clinical changes associated with circulating influenza viruses that may impact human or animal health, given the constantly evolving nature of these viruses.
The H3N8 infection is distinct from the H5N1 bird flu pandemic, which has caused widespread devastation to birds worldwide over the past 18 months and has spread to mammals such as humans, foxes, bears, and cats.