Chinese officials have reported what is thought to be the first human case of the H10N3 strain of bird flu in the world.
The virus infected a 41-year-old man who was hospitalized on April 28.
China’s National Health Commission said “the risk of large-scale transmission is low.” Experts explain what you should know and whether you should be concerned.
Chinese officials have reported what is thought to be the first human case of the H10N3 strain of bird flu in the world. The virus infected a 41-year-old man who was hospitalized on April 28, according to the Associated Press. He is in stable condition, and no other human cases of H10N3 have been reported.
“This infection is an accidental cross-species transmission,” China’s National Health Commission said in a statement, per the AP. “The risk of large-scale transmission is low.”
People are already comparing H10N3 to COVID-19 on social media, but infectious disease experts say that’s a little premature. Here’s what you need to know about H10N3, plus whether or not you should be concerned.
What is H10N3?
H10N3 is a type of bird flu or avian flu. These illnesses are common in wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They don’t normally infect humans, but the CDC says these crossover infections do happen.
Infected birds shed avian flu in their saliva, mucus, and poop, and humans can get infected when enough of the virus gets in the eyes, nose, or mouth, or is inhaled from infected droplets or dust, the CDC says.
Are experts concerned about bird flu?
While the spread of avian flu from birds to humans doesn’t happen often, infectious disease experts are concerned when it happens. “It’s a critical barrier for an avian virus to cross,” says infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “Only a small subset of avian flu viruses can do this.” These viruses can cause illness that ranges from mild to severe, the CDC says.
“The big concern is whether a particular strain of bird flu that’s in humans has the capacity to readily be transmitted from person to person,” says William Schaffner, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “If it had that capacity, it would be the setting for a pandemic of influenza.”
For the latest health news, join Prevention Premium to gain exclusive access to expert-backed wellness content you can trust.
H10N3 is also getting a little more attention than your typical bird flu because it caused a patient to be hospitalized. “Many flu viruses from other species only cause mild disease,” Dr. Adalja says.
But the “worst-case scenario” with a type of flu that jumps from animals (including birds) to humans is an H1N1 flu, says John Sellick, D.O., an infectious disease expert and professor of medicine at the University at Buffalo/SUNY. “That can make COVID look like a day in the park,” he says. “We’re always anxious about those, but we see them periodically.”
What are the symptoms of H10N3?
Details about H10N3 are scarce at the moment, but Dr. Adalja says that bird flu symptoms are usually the same as the regular flu. The CDC lists these as possible symptoms:
Shortness of breath
Altered mental status
How is H10N3 treated?
Bird flu is usually treated the same way as the “ordinary” flu, Dr. Adalja says. That means using an antiviral medication like oseltamivir (Tamiflu), peramivir, or zanamivir.
If any type of bird flu happened to start spreading among people, Dr. Sellick says that scientists “would be able to make a vaccine pretty quickly” by modifying an existing flu vaccine, but he cautions that “nothing is ever absolute.”
Should you be worried about H10N3?
Despite the online comparisons to COVID-19, experts say there’s no need to worry about H10N3 at this point. “It’s not something for the average person to concern themselves with beyond the fact that there are continual infectious disease threats to be aware of and demand solutions to,” Dr. Adalja says.
Dr. Schaffner agrees. H10N3 does not seem to be transmitted from person to person, he points out, and that’s a good thing. “This is the sort of thing that people in public health are constantly on the alert about,” he explains. “We’re monitoring for these sorts of events, just in case.”
You Might Also Like