China confirmed on Tuesday the first known human case of the H3N8 strain of bird flu to a four-year-old boy living in central Henan province.
China’s National Health Commission (NHC) said the boy tested positive for the strain after being hospitalized earlier this month with a fever and other symptoms.
The boy’s family raised chickens at home and lived in an area populated by wild ducks, the NHC said in a statement.
The boy was infected directly by birds and the strain was not found to have “the ability to effectively infect humans,” the commission said.
The NHC said the boy’s case was a “one-off cross-species transmission, and the risk of large-scale transmission is low.”
It warned the public to nevertheless stay away from dead or sick birds and seek immediate treatment for fever or respiratory symptoms.
Bird flu: Human-to-human is rare
Bird flu is spread by close contact with an infected bird (dead or alive). This includes: touching infected birds, droppings, or bedding and killing or preparing infected poultry in the food preparation process. Furthermore, markets where live birds are sold can also serve as breeding grounds for bird flu.
The US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that although the virus usually does not infect people, there have been several rare cases of human infection with these viruses. Illness in humans from bird flu virus infections have ranged in severity from no symptoms or mild illness to severe disease that resulted in death.
Although it is easy for humans to contract the infection from birds, human-to-human transmission is more difficult without prolonged contact. However, public health officials are concerned that strains of avian flu may mutate to become easily transmissible between humans.
The discovery of the first human case of bird flu adds to the health woes of China as the country tries to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Beijing has swiftly expanded its COVID-19 mass testing from one district this week to most of the city of nearly 22 million, adding to expectations of an imminent lockdown similar to that of Shanghai.
The Chinese capital began testing the residents of its most populous district, Chaoyang, on Monday. By the end of the day, even though only a fraction of the results had been released, the city decided to conduct tests on ten other districts and one economic development zone by Saturday.