A man has been hospitalized in southwestern China after contracting the H5N6 strain of avian flu, Chinese state news media reported on Thursday, a reminder that the world is full of flu viruses even during a coronavirus pandemic.
The man, 55, was hospitalized in Bazhong, a city in the southwestern province of Sichuan, after coming down with a fever and testing positive for the virus on July 6, the state-run China Global Television Network reported.
Local officials had “activated an emergency response and sterilized the area,” the broadcaster said in a brief report in English. It cited unnamed experts as saying that the risk of large-scale transmission among humans was low. The report did not provide other details or say whether the man handled poultry as part of his job.
The H5N6 virus is one of several potentially dangerous flu versions that scientists have reported finding over the years in poultry flocks or in captured or dead wild birds. It was first detected eight years ago in Laos, and later spread to China and other countries.
As of last week, 32 confirmed cases of human infection with the H5N6 virus, and 19 deaths, had been reported to the World Health Organization in Asia since 2014, according to the agency. The last human case before the one from Sichuan Province had an onset date of May 13.
Because flu viruses mutate a lot in nature, scientists try to monitor them closely for signs that they are becoming more contagious or deadly. Last year in China, for example, a team of scientists reported that a new strain of the H1N1 swine flu virus was spreading silently in workers on the country’s pig farms and should be “urgently” controlled to avoid another pandemic, even though the strain had not caused disease in the people it infected.