Bird flu: What is the avian flu strain H10N3 found in China - and could it be a risk to humans?

There are a multitude of different strains of the bird flu virus, with most of them not infecting humans

Health officials in China have reported the first known human case of a certain strain of bird flu known as H10N3.

A 41-year-old man living in Jiangsu, China, was hospitalized in late April and diagnosed with the virus on 28 May 28, but officials have now said the man has since recovered and will be leaving hospital soon.

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But what is bird flu and what is the H10N3 strain?

Bird flu - also known as avian flu - is an infectious type of influenza that spreads among birds (Photo: Shutterstock)

Here’s what you need to know.

What is bird flu?

Bird flu - also known as avian flu - is an infectious type of influenza that spreads among birds.

In rare cases, it can also affect humans.

There are a multitude of different strains of bird flu virus with most of them not infecting humans.

However, the NHS explains that there are four strains that have caused concern in recent years. These are:

- H5N1 (since 1997)

- H7N9 (since 2013)

- H5N6 (since 2014)

- H5N8 (since 2016)

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Although the H5N1, H7N9 and H5N6 strains don't infect people easily and aren't usually spread from human to human, several people have been infected around the world, which has led to a number of deaths. H5N8 has not infected any humans worldwide to date.

No humans have been infected with H5N1, H7N9, H5N6 or H5N8 bird flu in the UK, including the type of H5N6 virus recently found in humans in China.

The NHS notes: “Plans are in place to manage any suspected cases.”

However, H5N8 bird flu has been found in some wild birds and poultry in the UK. H5N6 has also been found in some wild birds in the UK, but is a different strain to that seen in China.

What is the H10N3 bird flu strain?

China’s National Health Commission has said the patient from Jiangsu is the first person believed to have contracted H10N3, possibly through contact with poultry.

H10N3 is considered a low-pathogenic virus, which means it’s not highly dangerous among its natural bird hosts.

According to officials, no one else that came in contact with the man is thought to have contracted the virus, and the risk of it spreading widely among birds is also thought to be low.

Further genetic testing will tell scientists whether this particular strain may pose a threat to humans, but currently, there is not any immediate concern about the virus.