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New China bird flu a reminder of mutant virus risk

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The death of a woman in China from a strain of bird flu previously unknown in humans is a reminder of the ever-present potential pandemic threat from mutating animal viruses, scientists said on Wednesday.

The new strain, called H10N8, has so far infected only two people - a fatal case in a 73-year-old and another in a woman who is critically ill in hospital. But the fact it has jumped from birds to humans is an important warning, they said.

"We should always be worried when viruses cross the species barrier from birds or animals to humans, as it is very unlikely that we will have prior immunity to protect us," said Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome Trust and an expert on flu.

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