The World Health Organisation confirmed the death from the virus which had not been detected in humans before two non-fatal cases emerged – both also in China – in April and May last year.
The woman who died was a 56-year-old from Guangdong province in southeast China.
H3N8 is known to have been circulating since 2002 after first emerging in North American waterfowl. It is known to infect horses, dogs and seals.
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The woman fell sick on 22 February, was hospitalised for severe pneumonia on 3 March and died on 16 March, the WHO said.
“The patient had multiple underlying conditions. She had a history of exposure to live poultry before the onset of the disease, and a history of wild bird presence around her home,” the UN health agency said in a statement on Tuesday.
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“No close contacts of the case developed an infection or symptoms of illness at the time of reporting,” it added.
While exposure to a live poultry market may have caused the infection, “it is still unclear what the exact source of this infection is and how this virus is related to other avian influenza A(H3N8) viruses that are circulating in animals,” the WHO said, calling for further animal and human investigations.
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