World's first H5N6 bird flu death reported in China

Health experts believe bird flu infections in humans are a result of exposure to affected poultry or contaminated environments.

Story highlights

  • China confirms first recorded human infection of H5N6 avian flu
  • 49-year-old man in Sichuan died Tuesday
  • Patient had history of exposure to poultry, health officials believe it was an isolated case

A 49-year-old man from China is believed to be the world's first human infected with the H5N6 avian flu strain.

The man, who was from Nanbu county in Sichuan province, died Tuesday in a hospital after receiving treatment, according to the Sichuan Provincial Health and Family Planning Commission. He suffered a severe case of pneumonia and was detected to have the H5N6 strain after a throat swab, according to the agency. The man had been exposed to dead poultry.

Medical experts say this an isolated case and that the risk of human-to-human transmission remains low. People who had close contact with the patient did not show any symptoms after medical observation, according to the commission.

Following this latest case, Taiwan issued a travel warning for Sichaun province, advising them to avoid contact with living or dead birds, according to Taiwan's Central News Agency.

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The H5N6 is believed to be a low-pathogenic bird flu virus that has been found in Germany, Sweden and United States, according to the Taiwanese news service.

East Asia has seen several bird flu strains infecting humans recently.

In March 2013, a new virus to humans, H7N9 was first reported in China. Since then, 115 people have died and 367 cases of H7N9 have been reported mostly in the country, according to figures from the World Health Organization from February.

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In May 2013, a 20-year-old woman became the first human to be infected with another bird flu strain called H6N1. The woman had not been exposed to poultry and she recovered after a few days, according to Taiwanese health officials.

In December 2013, China reported the first human case of another avian flu virus, H10N8. The 73-year-old woman from Jiangxi province died. She had a history of contact with live poultry markets, according to the WHO.

Health experts believe that most of these infections are a result of exposure to sickened poultry or contaminated environments.