Public Health

What You Need to Know About The H10N3 Bird Flu Variant

Jacqueline Slobin09 Jun 2021

What You Need to Know About The H10N3 Bird Flu Variant 

The H10N3 flu is a type of avian influenza virus that was recently detected in an adult man in China. At this moment, there is no evidence that the H10N3 flu can be transmitted between humans. The current risk of infection is currently low, but experts are closely monitoring the situation and the transmissibility of the virus. Symptoms of the virus are similar to symptoms of other strains of the flu and include pink eye, fever, or body aches. 

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What is The H10N3 Flu 

The H10N3 flu is a type of avian influenza that is present in birds worldwide. This type of influenza is contagious among birds and is spread through saliva, mucus, and feces. This virus can be spread to birds when they come in contact with an infected bird or a contaminated surface. 

Avian influenza viruses like the H10N3 typically do not affect humans. While human infection is rare, it is possible to become infected if humans come in contact with a lot of viral material either directly through a bird or a surface. The H10N3 flu typically causes pink eye and other flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, and body aches. This flu requires a nasal or oral swab test for diagnosis and if a human contracts the H10N3 bird flu, it can be treated with neuraminidase inhibitor medication. 

How Did the H10N3 Flu Start 

Different strains of flu have been present in birds for many years and occasionally spread to humans. For example, there is currently an outbreak of H5N8 flu among birds, which was also identified in humans in Europe. 

The H10N3 flu, which is a more rare variant of the avian flu, was first discovered in birds in 2002. This virus was identified in a 41-year-old man in China on May 28th, 2021 who is the first known human to contract H10N3. The individual began to experience a high fever in late April, which eventually prompted the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention to test the man for the H10N3 flu at the end of May. 

Risks Associated with H10N3

At this moment, it is believed that the human risks associated with the H10N3 flu are low. Since avian influenza viruses spread among birds and poultry, occasional human infection is not surprising. But, there is currently no evidence of human-to-human transmission of this strain of the flu. 

Nonetheless, influenza viruses mutate quickly. So it is possible that this H10N3 virus mutates or mixes with other strains of the flu in a way that may pose a risk to humans. Once the genetic code of the H10N3 influenza virus is fully sequenced, we will know more about the risk that this virus poses for humans and how transmissible it is. 

What Experts are Saying 

Since there is no evidence that the individual who has the H10N3 virus has spread it to any other humans, many experts believe that the current risk remains low. However, due to the continuous underlying risk of flus leading to a pandemic, experts will be monitoring the development of the H10N3 very closely in the coming weeks. 

The main concerns among experts seem to be the mutation of the H10N3 virus to make it more transmissible from human to human as well as the possibility of the H10N3 mixing with a human flu virus. The mixing of the H10N3 virus and the human flu could occur if an individual is infected with both H10N3 and the human flu and the viruses exchange genetic material. 

Experts in China will continue to track close contacts of the individual who had H10N3 in order to monitor the transmission of the virus.

Bird Flu Vs. COVID-19

The identification of an H10N3 case in a human has caused concern for many people, as the COVID-19 pandemic was likely caused by viral transmission from an animal to a human. However, there are some important differences to note between H10N3 influenza and COVID-19. 

The main difference between Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and H10N3 is how they are transmitted. While COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets, there is no current evidence that H10N3 can be caught from another person. 

There were two previous strains of avian influenza that spread to humans, the H5N1, and H7N9. Both of these strains affected several hundred individuals, but experts believe that they may have not spread beyond these numbers due to minimal person-to-person transmission. Nonetheless, the H5N1 and H7N9 avian flu had much higher mortality rates than COVID-19. 

Overall, while strains of the bird flu have higher mortality rates than COVID-19, they are less transmissible and easier to isolate. In the chart below we break down some of the key differences between COVID-19 and three avian influenza strains. 

Differences between COVID-19 and Bird Flu

 COVID-19H10N3H5N1H7N9
Number of Human Cases

171,292,827

1

649

571

Mortality Rate

2.15%

0%

60%

37%

How it SpreadsMostly through respiratory droplets expelled during breathing, coughing, or talkingLikely through contact with infected poultryContact with infected sick or dead poultryContact with infected poultry
Human to Human TransmissionYesNo cases reportedUncommonUncommon
OriginsLikely originated in a bat, passed to an unknown intermediate animal, and then transmitted to humansBirdsBirdsBirds

Bottom Line 

The H10N3 flu, which originates in birds, was detected in one person in late May 2021. There is currently no evidence that this virus is able to spread between humans, but researchers are currently sequencing the genetic code of the virus to learn more about how it is spread and possible mutations. By analyzing the impact of other avian flus, such as H5N1 and H7N9, we can see that avian flus typically have high mortality rates but do not spread easily from person to person. 

Even though the risk of contracting the avian flu is currently low, if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, fatigue, and chills, you should seek medical attention. A membership with Mira can help you access low-cost urgent care visits, prescriptions, and lab tests to get the care you need. Sign up today to get started.

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