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China reports first human death caused by H3N8 bird flu virus, says World Health Organization

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The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that a rare strain of bird flu caused the first known human death in China, although there is no evidence of the virus spreading among people.

The WHO said in a statement late Tuesday that the 56-year-old woman from the southern province of Guangdong was the third person known to be infected with the H3N8 bird flu virus.

All cases have been in China, with the first two reported last year.

The Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced the third infection late last month, but did not provide details of the woman’s death.

The World Health Organization said the patient had several underlying conditions and a history of exposure to live poultry.

Sporadic infections among people infected with avian influenza are common in China, where avian influenza viruses are constantly circulating in large numbers of domestic and wild birds.

The World Health Organization said samples collected from a wet market the woman visited before she became ill tested positive for influenza A (H3), suggesting this could be the source of the infection.

Although rare in humans, H3N8 is common in birds where it causes few or no signs of disease. It also infected other mammals.

The World Health Organization said that no other cases were found among the infected woman’s contacts.

“Based on the available information, it appears that this virus does not have the ability to spread easily from person to person, and therefore the risk of its spread between humans at the national, regional and international levels is considered low.” The World Health Organization said in the statement.

Monitoring all avian influenza viruses is important because of their potential to evolve and cause a pandemic.

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