China Reports Woman's Death From 2 Combined Strains of Bird Flu; Another Bird Flu Strain Found Killing Antarctic Penguins

By Jace Dela Cruz

Jan 31, 2024 02:06 AM EST

China has reported the death of a 63-year-old woman from Anhui province due to combined H3N2 and H10N5 strains of bird flu following a cross-species transmission.

According to Reuters, the woman, who had underlying health conditions and exhibited symptoms including cough, sore throat, and fever on November 30, died on December 16.

Human Transmission Ruled Out In China's Recent Bird Flu Cases
(Photo : China Photos/Getty Images)
NANJING, CHINA - DECEMBER 18: (CHINA OUT) A tourists view birds at the Xuanwu Hu Aviary on December 18, 2007 in Nanjing of Jiangsus Province, China.

China Reports the Death of Woman from Bird Flu Strains

The National Disease Control and Prevention Administration noted that screenings of close contacts yielded negative, and no other suspected cases were found. 

The agency said genome sequence analyses of the virus indicated that the H10N5 virus is of avian origin and has low human infection potential. 

The agency noted that "the outbreak is an episodic cross-species transmission from bird to humans," adding that the risk of the virus infecting people "is low, and no human-to-human transmission has occurred."

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Deadly H5N1 Avian Influenza Virus Detected in Penguins

In related news, the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) reported the detection of the H5N1 avian influenza virus in gentoo penguins for the first time, raising concerns about potential spread among Antarctica's large penguin colonies. 

Around 35 penguins in the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic were found dead on January 19, and samples taken from two of these dead penguins showed positive for H5N1. 

The Falkland Islands government told Reuters that more gentoo penguins were dying under similar circumstances. As of January 30, Falkland Islands government spokesperson Sally Heathman noted that over 200 dead chicks, alongside a handful of adults, were found dead. 

It only confirmed that gentoos are vulnerable to the deadly disease that has killed a large part of bird populations worldwide in recent months. 

However, gentoo penguins rarely travel between the Falklands off Argentina's coast and the Antarctic Peninsula, which means they are unlikely to drive the spread of the virus to the southern continent.

"The role that gentoo penguins could have, instead, is to serve as local reservoirs of infection... That is, maintain a pool of susceptible hosts that never leaves the islands," said Ralph Vanstreels, a veterinarian who works with SCAR.

According to Heathman, the Falkland Islands government is also waiting for the test results from rockhopper penguins and is preparing "for a large-scale outbreak." 

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