China Bird Flu
A worker sprays chemicals to disinfect the ground in front of policemen standing guard outside a poultry farm which was sealed off after an outbreak of bird flu, in Baoding, Hebei province, China, Dec. 22, 2013. Photo: Reuters/Stringer

A woman in China died after contracting an infection of combined strains of the H3N2 and H10N5 variants of bird flu.

The 63-year-old woman died in December last year. However, the fact that the woman died due to bird flu has just been confirmed by Chinese authorities.

The woman from the Anhui province of China fell ill on November 30 and passed away on December 16. Her symptoms included a cough, sore throat, and fever.

China's National Disease Control and Prevention Administration screened all her close contacts, but no other such case was found.

"The outbreak is an episodic cross-species transmission from bird to humans," the statement from the National Disease Control and Prevention Administration said. The agency further stated that the H10N5 virus is of avian origin, but it does not effectively infect humans.

It also added that no human-to-human transmission has occurred and that the risk of the strain infecting people remains low.

Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) had expressed concerns after an 11-year-old girl died of a bird flu infection.

The girl from Cambodia's eastern Prey Veng province was diagnosed with the virus after falling sick with a fever, cough, and sore throat. The symptoms were similar to the ones found in the Chinese woman.

The 11-year-old girl who died after catching the infection was found to be positive for H5N1, commonly known as bird flu. One other person also tested positive for it, following which the Cambodian authorities launched an investigation to track the source of the infection.

They found that these viruses were an endemic clade of bird flu circulating in the country, which essentially means that this is not a new strain and that it has been in Cambodia for many years. The strain has been identified as H5 clade

Has H10N5 been detected for the first time?

Varieties of bird flu are common in China, where authorities have increased surveillance of the viruses. Some of the known subtypes of A(H10) viruses include A(H10N3), A(H10N4), and A(H10N5). According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, A (H10N5) was found in swine (pigs) in 2008.

It says that most A (H10) virus infections in people have resulted from exposure to infected poultry.

Avian flu is one of the hundreds of deadly diseases transferred between animals and humans. Most avian influenza viruses do not infect humans. However, certain strains are infectious to humans. These include H5N1, H7N3, H7N7, H7N9, and H9N2.

The most common type is the avian influenza sub-type H5N1 virus. Bird flu can infect humans who come into contact with an infected bird.

The H5N1 strain spread from Asia to Europe and Africa since it first infected humans in 1997 in Hong Kong. The virus is endemic in several countries, posing one of the most serious concerns for human health. However, the risk to humans is currently low.

Symptoms are like most other common cases of flu, but it could turn fatal when it worsens into an acute respiratory disease. Some of the symptoms of H5N1 include cough, colds, and fever. In severe cases, the lungs can get affected too.

WHO advises people to avoid contact with high-risk environments such as live animal markets and farms, live poultry, or surfaces that may be contaminated by poultry or bird faeces.

They should also avoid contact with sick or dead animals from unknown causes.

Bird Flu in animals:

The highly contagious bird flu has recently been found in the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, a UK overseas territory accessible only by ship. It has been found in fur and elephant seal populations for the first time in the region.

The strain was first detected in brown skua birds on Bird Island in South Georgia by the staff of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) last year in October.

North and South America have been seeing severe outbreaks of the virus since 2021. The virus is estimated to have killed millions of wild birds in the last few years. It has affected other species as well, such as bald eagles, foxes, and kittiwakes.

Scientists have warned that the virus could bring "one of the largest ecological disasters of modern times" if it starts to spread amongst penguin colonies.