A Chinese woman has become the first person to die from a type of bird flu that is rare in humans, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said, but the strain does not appear to spread between people.
The 56-year-old woman from the southern province of Guangdong was the third person known to have been infected with the H3N8 subtype of avian influenza, the WHO said in a statement late on Tuesday.
All of the cases have been in China, with the first two cases reported last year.
The Guangdong Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reported the third infection late last month but did not provide details of the woman’s death.
The patient had multiple underlying conditions, said the WHO, and a history of exposure to live poultry.
Sporadic infections in people with bird flu are common in China where avian flu viruses constantly circulate in huge poultry and wild bird populations.
Samples collected from a wet market visited by the woman before she became ill were positive for influenza A(H3), said the WHO, suggesting this may have been the source of infection.
Though rare in people, H3N8 is common in birds in which it causes little to no sign of disease. It has also infected other mammals.
There were no other cases found among close contacts of the infected woman, the WHO said.
“Based on available information, it appears that this virus does not have the ability to spread easily from person to person, and therefore the risk of it spreading among humans at the national, regional, and international levels is considered to be low,” the WHO said in the statement.
Monitoring of all avian influenza viruses is considered important given their ability to evolve and cause a pandemic.