Another bird flu strain has crossed the species barrier and claimed a human life in China.
Health authorities and infectious disease experts said last night that an elderly Jiangxi woman died earlier this month after contracting H10N8, a strain previously unknown in humans.
"It has never been detected in humans before," University of Hong Kong microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung, one of the world's foremost experts on bird flu, told Hong Kong Cable TV.
The 73-year-old woman was diagnosed with severe pneumonia on November 30, after being admitted to hospital in Jiangxi's provincial capital, Nanchang . She died on December 6, the official Jiangxi Daily reported online last night, citing provincial health department.
At some point, she was diagnosed as having contracted H10N8, one of 15 known bird flu varieties. Unlike H5N1 or H7N9, it was not previously known to have made humans ills.
Health authorities said the woman had a compromised immune system and visited a local live poultry market before becoming ill. They said people who had come in contact with the victim were being monitored and had so far showed no signs of the disease.
Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection said it received notification of the fatal case yesterday from the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
Yuen told Hong Kong Commercial Radio that genetic sequencing needed to be conducted on the new flu strain before experts could assess the risk of more human infections.
The Jiangxi Daily, however, cited an anonymous expert as saying that initial assessments suggested the death was an individual case and the risk of human infection remained low.