A 73-year-old Chinese woman has died from the H10N8 strain of flu that was previously only detected in birds, again raising concerns about viruses that mutate and infecting humans.
Although the strain is only known to have infected two people so far, health experts say it’s raised several red flags.
“We should always be worried when viruses cross the species barrier from birds or animals to humans, as it is very unlikely that we will have prior immunity to protect us,” Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome Trust and an expert on flu, told Reuters.
Chinese scientists who analyzed the virus wrote in the journal The Lancet that the H10N8 virus seems to be a genetic reassortment of known strains of bird flu viruses. It has evolved “some genetic characteristics that may allow it to replicate efficiently in humans,” according to Yuelong Shu of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing.
The woman who died was treated with antibiotics and antivirals, but developed multiple organ failure.
Health officials also worry that it’s not a singular case. The second infection shows that the virus is continuing to circulate, said Mingbin Liu from Nanchang City Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The good news? So far, the virus does not seem to spread from human-to-human.