A 73-year-old woman in Jiangxi province in China has died from an H10N8 avian flu infection, Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said today, the first report of that strain infecting humans.
The woman, whose immune system was compromised, had an underlying illness and had visited a live-poultry market, CHP reported in a statement. She was admitted to a local hospital on Nov 30, was diagnosed as having severe pneumonia, and died Dec 6.
China's National Health and Family Planning Commission confirmed the case. The woman's close contacts are under medical surveillance but have as yet remained asymptomatic.
"Influenza A(H10) is currently not a local statutorily notifiable infectious disease but the Public Health Laboratory Services Branch of the CHP is capable of detecting this virus by culture or genetic testing. No confirmed human cases have been recorded so far in Hong Kong," a spokesman for the CHP said in the statement.
David Halvorson, DVM, an avian health expert at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, told CIDRAP News, "I am unaware of any [previous] H10N8 human infections."
The CHP said in the statement that it will follow up with the World Health Organization (WHO) and health officials on the mainland for more information. Meanwhile, Hong Kong authorities have stepped up surveillance efforts.
The CHP spokesman urged travelers not to visit live-poultry markets and avoid direct contact with poultry, birds, and their droppings. Jiangxi is located in southeastern China, with only Guangdong province separating it from Hong Kong.
H10N8 in birds; previous H10 human cases
The H10N8 strain has been detected in Chinese birds. In June 2012 in the Journal of Virology, Chinese researchers reported its first detection in a live-bird market, in Guangdong province.
In January 2011 in Virology Journal, a different group of investigators reported that H10N8 had been isolated from a water sample taken from Dongting Lake in 2007. The lake is in Hunan province, which borders both Jiangxi and Guangdong provinces.
They reported that the isolate was lowly pathogenic for chickens but replicated efficiently in the mouse lung. They also noted rapidly increasing virulence in mice as the virus adapted to the mouse lung.
Although this is the first confirmed case of H10N8 in a person, a May 2012 report in Emerging Infectious Diseases noted that two Australian abattoir workers tested positive for H10 after they processed chickens from a farm that had had an H10N7 outbreak in 2010. They had only minor symptoms.
H10N7 was also detected in two Egyptian infants in 2004.