A woman in southern China has tested positive for H3N8 bird flu, local officials say, making it only the third time that the virus has been found in humans, although a previous strain may have caused the 1889 pandemic.
The Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in a brief statement released on Monday, said a 56-year-old woman from Zhongshan City had been infected with H3N8.
The woman, who has multiple myeloma and other underlying health conditions, had exposure to live poultry before falling ill, the statement said. Wild birds are also frequently found near her home.
Details about her condition have not been released.
“No abnormalities have been found in close contacts so far,” the Guangdong CDC said. “Experts believe that this is a sporadic case and the risk of virus transmission is low at this stage.”
The news comes nearly a year after the H3N8 virus was confirmed in humans for the first time, when a 4-year-old boy in central China became seriously ill. The family’s pets – a dog and a cat – were also infected.
A second person, a 5-year-old boy from Hunan province, was infected about a month later, in May 2022. He recovered quickly after only mild symptoms, according to the Chinese government.
H3N8 is found in birds but also in horses and is one of the two viruses which cause dog flu. The new case in China is only the third confirmed case in humans, and the first in an adult.
But while it was never found in humans until 2022, researchers have long believed that a previous strain of the virus may have caused the 1889 pandemic, which was known as “Asiatic flu” or “Russian flu.” More recent research suggests a strain of coronavirus may have caused the pandemic.