One dead from new avian flu strain in China; older strain has infected more than 300 people

AP/AP - A worker disinfects cages at a closed poultry store in Hangzhou in east China's Zhejiang province on Jan. 24.

BEIJING — Scientists say a new strain of avian flu has killed a woman in China and infected at least one other person.

In a study published Wednesday in the Lancet medical journal, Chinese researchers detailed the recent spread of the H10N8 virus, saying “the pandemic potential of this novel virus should not be underestimated.”

A giant crane (L) that will lift up the sunken 'Sewol' ferry is silhouetted against the sunset in Jindo on April 24, 2014. Furious relatives of missing victims from South Korea's ferry disaster attacked a top coastguard official accusing him of lying about efforts to retrieve bodies still trapped in the submerged vessel. AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURINICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images

The giant crane in the background will lift the sunken South Korean ferry "Sewol."

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China has struggled over the past year to deal with a previously detected avian flu strain called H7N9, which has killed about a quarter of those infected and led to large-scale culling of poultry markets and a drop in poultry sales.

The Lancet study covers the first reported case of human infection by H10N8. In the report, Chinese scientists detailed the case of a 73-year-old woman in Nanchang who was admitted to a hospital Nov. 30. Within nine days of the onset of illness, the woman suffered multiple organ failure and died. Investigators determined afterward that the woman had visited a live poultry market four days earlier, but they couldn’t find the H10N8 strain at the market.

Researchers also reported that a second woman in Nanchang, who is 55 years old, was infected and is still being treated.

For years, various strains of avian flu have worried scientists because of the potential for the disease to be transmitted from human to human. While the two cases in Nanchang were the first proof that H10N8 could be carried by humans, there is no evidence thus far that the strain is being transmitted from human to human.

“More surveillance will be needed to establish the origin of H10N8 and to monitor potential future transmission events,” the Lancet study said.

According to the report, the new H10N8 strain is genetically similar to two other strains of avian flu, H7N9 and H5N1. After a temporary slowdown in the middle of 2013, the H7N9 strain has had a resurgence in recent months.

Ten new cases of H7N9 infections were reported this week in China, pushing the total number of H7N9 infections to more than 300 since the outbreak began last year, according to an unofficial tally kept by the Center for Infection Disease Research and Policy. There have been 67 deaths.

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