China has confirmed the first known human case of the H3N8 strain of avian flu.
According to China’s National Health Commission, a four-year-old boy living in central Henan province tested positive for the strain after being hospitalised with a fever and other symptoms.
The boy’s family raised chickens at home and lived in an area populated by wild ducks, China’s NHC said in a statement. The NHC said the boy’s case was a “one-off cross-species transmission, and the risk of large-scale transmission is low”.
Though health authorities say there is a low risk of widespread transmission among people, H3N8 is known to have been circulating since 2002 after first emerging in North American waterfowl. It is known to infect horses, dogs and seals, but has not previously been detected in humans.
The public has however been warned to stay away from dead or sick birds and seek immediate treatment for fever or respiratory symptoms.
Avian influenza occurs mainly in wild birds and poultry. Cases of transmission between humans are extremely rare.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control, the H5N1 and H7N9 strains of bird flu, detected in 1997 and 2013, respectively, have been responsible for most cases of human illness from avian influenza.
Human infections of zoonotic, or animal-borne, influenzas are “primarily acquired through direct contact with infected animals or contaminated environments, but do not result in the efficient transmission of these viruses between people”, according to the World Health Organisation.