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How does H10N3 Bird Flu affect Humans? Risks & precautions as China reports the first case

Tulika Tandon

H10N3 Bird Flu: Why in the News?

China has recently reported the first case of H10N3 Bird Flu infection in humans. Know all the risks and precautions associated with the disease and the effect on humans here. 

About the case:

A 41 year old man was found infected with a rare strain of Avian Influenza or H10N3 bird flu. The report was confirmed by Beijing's National Health Commission (NHC).

Although many strains of bird flu are present in China, no indication was there that H10N3 can spread to humans so easily. 

The man is a resident of the city of Zhenjiang and was diagnosed with H10N3 on May 28, 2021. 

H10N3 Bird Flu: Details

  1. It is a type of Avian Influenza or bird flu.
  2. H10N3 is low pathogenic, which means it is relatively less severe and is unlikely to cause a large scale outbreak (similar to Covid 19).
  3. This virus normally infects wild aquatic birds, as well as domestic poultry but rarely humans.
  4. In some rare cases, saliva, mucous, or feces from infected birds get into a person's eyes, nose, or mouth.
  5. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and does not cause severe disease.
  6. The World Health Organization (WHO) also informed that the exposure to this virus was not known earlier and also there is no indication of human to human transmission yet. 
  7. Only around 160 isolates of the virus were reported in the 40 years to 2018

How does H10N3 Spread?

  1. Although H10N3 is a very rare infection, it has been observed that it happens after unprotected contact with infected birds or surfaces contaminated with avian influenza viruses.
  2. However as per WHO, “the source of the patient's exposure to the H10N3 virus is not known at this time.”
  3. As per Nicole Robb of the University of Warwick, cited by the Science Media Centre, "Bird flu, or avian flu, is caused by influenza viruses that spread between birds".
    She however verified that, "It can often spread easily between birds, but very rarely causes disease in humans,"

H10N3: Risks and Precautions associated

  1. The risk of further infection with H10N3 is said to be very low. 
  2. Experts describe the case as sporadic and occasional.
  3. It is a rare infection but with growing surveillance of bird flu in the human population, more infections with bird flu viruses are being picked up.
  4. Earlier this year, the first human infection with the H5N8 virus was reported in Russia. It caused huge damage on poultry farms across Europe, Russia and East Asia last winter.
  5. The authorities reported that seven people infected with the virus were asymptomatic.
  6. Experts have been set on the observation of cases of H10N3 influenza but as such a single case is not much of a concern.

As per the statement released by World Health Organization (WHO) in this regard, “As long as avian influenza viruses circulate in poultry, sporadic infection of avian influenza in humans is not surprising, which is a vivid reminder that the threat of an influenza pandemic is persistent.”  

As per CDC, at present, there are only a few avian influenza strains known to infect humans. These include H5, H7, and H9, usually in the form of H5N1 and H7N9 viruses. Thus avian influenza H10N3 has very less risks and precautions associated with it.  

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