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Chinese woman dies of AH3N8 virus, WHO fears spread

A 56-year-old woman from China's Guangdong province died on March 16 after being infected with avian influenza, AH3N8, sparking the world's most populous nation to enforce control and preventive measures.

HQ Team

April 12, 2023: A 56-year-old woman from China’s Guangdong province died on March 16 after being infected with avian influenza, AH3N8, sparking the world’s most populous nation to enforce control and preventive measures.

According to a WHO statement, epidemiological investigation and close contact tracing have been carried out. “There have been no other cases found among close contacts of the infected individual.”

The National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China notified WHO of the death on March 27, 2023. “This is the third reported case of human infection with an avian influenza A(H3N8) virus; all three cases have been reported from China.”

Two previous cases were reported in April and May last year. One of the previous cases developed a critical illness, while the other had a mild illness.

Both cases likely acquired infection from direct or indirect exposure to infected poultry.

Source ‘unclear’

“It is still unclear what the exact source of this infection is and how it is related to other avian influenza A(H3N8) viruses circulating in animals.

“To better understand the current risk to public health, more information is needed from both human and animal investigation,” according to the WHO.

The Chinese woman who died of the disease caught the virus on February 22. She was hospitalised for severe pneumonia on March 3 and died on March 16, 2023.

The case was detected through the severe acute respiratory infection surveillance system. The patient had multiple underlying conditions. She had a history of exposure to live poultry before the onset of the disease and a history of wild bird presence around her home. 

No close contacts of the case developed an infection or symptoms of illness at the time of reporting.

Sample collection

Environmental samples were collected from the patient’s residence and the wet market, where the patient spent time before the onset of the illness.

The testing results showed that the samples collected from the wet market were positive for influenza A H3N8.

The global health agency stated that based on available information, it appeared that the H3N8 virus could not spread easily from person to person.

The risk of it spreading among humans at the national, regional, and international levels is low.

“However, due to the constantly evolving nature of influenza viruses, WHO stresses the importance of global surveillance to detect virological, epidemiological and clinical changes associated with circulating influenza viruses which may affect human (or animal) health.”


Zoonotic influenza infections in humans may be asymptomatic or may cause disease.

Depending on factors related to the specific virus and the infected host, the disease can range from conjunctivitis or mild flu-like symptoms to severe acute respiratory disease or even death.

Gastrointestinal or neurological symptoms have been reported, but those were rare.

Human cases of infection with avian influenza viruses are usually the result of direct or indirect exposure to infected live or dead poultry or contaminated environments, according to the WHO.


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