Via the Nature News Blog, Declan Butler writes: Novel China flu appears low risk to humans. Click through for the full post and several links. Excerpt:
The H10N8 avian flu strain, first detected in humans in a 73-year old woman in Eastern China this month, appears to pose little immediate risk to people, despite her death, preliminary information has shown. The sequence of the virus has not yet been published, but Nature has learned that the haemagglutinin surface protein shows none of the worrysome amino acid changes that typically would allow the virus to infect humans. This means that, unlike H7N9, which is behind a current fatal flu outbreak in southern Guangdong province, the virus cannot easily jump from poultry or other birds to humans.
One possible explanation for the fatal case is that the elderly woman’s health status left her more vulnerable to the H10N8 virus than healthier individuals, in which case this H10N8 infection may be no more than a rare event. The woman, who was hospitalised on 30 November and died on 6 December, is reported to have been immunocompromised and to have heart disease, myasthenia gravis and other illnesses.
The World Health Organisation, in a factsheet on H10N8 published on 19 December, nonetheless noted that: “Given the potentially unpredictable behaviour of influenza viruses, vigilance and close monitoring is needed.” If the virus is widespread in birds, some further sporadic cases could occur, it added.
The sequence also suggests that the virus, like H7N9, does not cause serious disease in birds, which means it would likewise spread silently in poultry. This would complicate surveillance of the virus were H10N8 to become a problem.