Transmission of bird flu between humans 'very rare,' expert says

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 28 2022 11:54 AM | Updated as of Apr 28 2022 12:18 PM

A dead duck at a poultry farm in San Luis, Pampanga, Aug. 15, 2017. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
A dead duck at a poultry farm in San Luis, Pampanga, Aug. 15, 2017. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Transmission of avian influenza among people is "very rare," an infectious disease specialist said Thursday, after China reported the first known human case of the H3N8 strain of bird flu.

Dr. Rontgene Solante, chief of the Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine Unit at San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, said human infections of avian influenza are caused by "repeated exposure" to infected animals, with the virus rarely transmitted among people.

"Very rare ang human-to-human transmission," he told TeleRadyo. "It’s always an avian and then ‘yung mga nagtrabaho sa mga poultry na mayroong nagkasakit na mga manok na mayroong ganitong avian virus ang puwedeng mahawaan."

(Human-to-human transmission is very rare. It’s always an avian and then those who work at poultry farms with infected chickens who may catch the avian virus.) 

While cases of bird flu are common, Solante warned there are strains of avian influenza that could cause severe infection in human.

"It's important on the part of the agricultural farms na ma-monitor ang mga domestic animals especially for those potentially infected with avian influenza para hindi pupunta sa tao,” he said. 

(It's important on the part of the agricultural farms to monitor domestic animals, especially for those potentially infected with avian influenza, so that it does not spread to humans.) 

Solante called on poultry growers to seek immediate treatment if they experience symptoms of avian influenza such as fever, cough, and muscle aches.

Some cases result in hospitalization due to severe pneumonia, he added. 

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China's National Health Commission said Tuesday a 4-year-old boy living in central Henan province tested positive for H3N8 strain of avian flu after being hospitalized earlier this month with a fever and other symptoms.

The boy's family raised chickens at home and lived in an area populated by wild ducks, the NHC said in a statement.

The boy was infected directly by birds and the strain was not found to have "the ability to effectively infect humans", the commission said.

It added that tests of the boy's close human contacts found "no abnormalities".

The NHC said the boy's case was a "one-off cross-species transmission, and the risk of large-scale transmission is low".

H3N8 is known to have been circulating since 2002 after first emerging in North American waterfowl. It is known to infect horses, dogs and seals, but has not previously been detected in humans. 

— With a report from Agence France-Presse