China will face another flu epidemic.
In the midst of flu season, Beijing doctors warn that China is experiencing a resurgence of avian influenza.
H10N8, the fifth and newest strain of the deadly virus, has reportedly caused the death of one elderly woman and the hospitalization of another. While only two cases have been reported, experts fear that the new strain could lead to a pandemic.
In 2012 and 2013 we saw H7N9, a strain of avian flu that reportedly caused more than 70 deaths according to Hong Kong’s South Morning China Post. In the rise of this new strain, poor safety guidelines in Chinese poultry markets are to blame. But this isn’t the first time China’s lax health regulations surrounding food production have resulted in widespread illness. Aside from various “bird flu” outbreaks over the years, in 2008 China experienced a melamine-contaminated milk epidemic which resulted in the death of six children, and the hospitalization of thousands.
With such a poor track record regarding food safety, it comes as no surprise that China is faced with yet another bout of bird flu. The Chinese government previously announced their concern regarding the virus, but with the emergence of another strain, it is made clear that a boost in food safety has not been prioritized in Chinese food markets. Rather than upping food safety standards, poultry markets in Hong Kong have reacted to the H10N8 outbreak by slaughtering some 20,000 birds believed to be infected with the virus.
So how exactly is bird flu spread? Like the H7N9 virus, H10N8 is transferred from bird-to-human, meaning humans must have “direct contact with infected birds (dead or alive),” to contract the virus, according to a report from BBC News. Researchers of the new strain explain that there has been no evidence of the new strain being spread from person-to-person.
With only two cases reported in China and no cases reported outside of the country, experts stress the importance of monitoring this strain, as they fear the virus has the potential to become more infectious as it mutates over time.