New H10N8 bird flu 'not imminent global threat'

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The latest type of bird flu detected in China, H10N8, does not pose an imminent global threat, say researchers.

There have been three reported cases and two deaths since December 2013.

UK Medical Research Council scientists analysed the molecular structure of the virus to show it did not share the characteristics of previous pandemics.

Instead they argued resources should be focused on other flu viruses that are emerging or are already present in South East Asia.

There are a number of bird flus that are making the jump from animals to humans.

The phenomenon is most notable in China, where there is a large population that culturally lives closely with birds, such as live poultry markets.

H7N9 emerged in March last year and there were more than a hundred cases in the first month. There is also the longstanding threat of H5N1 influenza, which kills nearly two in three people infected.

'Need to be aware'

The study on the latest bird flu to emerge, published by the journal Nature, analysed how well the surface of the virus could bind to human tissue - a key measure of how likely it is to spread.

It showed the H10N8 virus still had a clear preference for infecting birds rather than humans, a trait that it is likely would need to be reversed before it became a serious threat.

Dr John McCauley, the director of the World Health Organization Influenza Centre at the Medical Research Council's National Institute for Medical Research, told the BBC: "This has been a pretty rare event in one place in China. It highlights the need to be aware, but I don't think there's an imminent threat.

"There are higher priorities than H10N8. Other avian influenzas emerging in China or those around for the past 10 years pose a more significant threat than H10N8."

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