A newly discovered mutation of the bird flu virus, called H10N8, has been discovered in China, and scientists say it has the potential to create a pandemic.
The new bird flu strain is said to adapt rapidly and cause serious damage to lungs, according to the scientists. It has sparked concerns among health authorities in China since the first case in Jiangxi Province in November last year became known about.
“Our findings suggest that the virus is a potential threat to people,” scientists from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention wrote in a research report in The Lancet, an international medical journal, on Wednesday.
There has so far not been much coverage of the new virus in the domestic Chinese media.
Although human-to-human transmission had not been discovered, words of warning were sounded in the report: “The pandemic potential of this novel virus should not be underestimated.”
At least two cases of human infection with H10N8 have been found in China, resulting in one death, according to the report.
The first case of H10N8 in China was in a 73-year-old woman in Nanchang City of the southern Jiangxi Province. Her condition deteriorated rapidly and she died on Dec. 6, nine days after the onset of illness. The report said that the woman had visited a live poultry market four days before she got ill.
The second case was also in Nanchang of Jiangxi: a 55-year-old woman was confirmed to be infected with H10N8 on Jan. 26. She had also visited live poultry markets before the illness, and was put into a critical condition by the disease.
The report calls H10N8 a “novel reassortant virus” which likely mutated from other wild bird influenza viruses. It is distinct, the authors say, from the previously reported H10N8 that was detected in poultry samples taken from a lake in Hunan in 2007, and again from poultry in Guangdong in 2012.