Chinese officials have reported the first human infected with the H3N8 bird flu strain, which has been detected in horses, dogs and even seals.
In a statement on Tuesday, China’s National Health Commission (NHC) said the flu variant was found in a 4-year-old child living in Zhumadian in the Henan Province.
The health agency said the child started to develop fever and other symptoms on April 5 and was admitted to a local medical facility five days later due to the severity of his condition.
The patient lived on a farm where he frequently came into contact with chickens, the health agency said.
Though experts said the risk of large-scale transmission is low, infections in humans can lead to viral adaptive mutations that increase the risk of rapid spreading.
Erik Karlsson, deputy head of the virology unit at the Institut Pasteur in Cambodia, told Reuters the infection should prompt increased surveillance.
“We need to be concerned about all spillover events,” he said.
Medical experts have advised residents to avoid contact with sick and dead poultry and live poultry in daily life and to pay close attention to their dietary hygiene as well, the statement noted.
The NHC also said Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention tested close contacts of the child.
“Henan Province carried out medical observation and sampling tests on the close contacts of the child, and no abnormality was found,” the statement said.