PARIS - Chinese scientists sounded the alarm Wednesday after a new bird flu virus, H10N8, killed an elderly woman in December and infected another individual last month.
The fifth novel influenza strain to emerge in 17 years, the virus has a worrying genetic profile and should be closely monitored, they reported in The Lancet medical journal.
It appears to be able to infect tissue deep in the lung and may have features allowing it to spread efficiently among humans, they said.
"The pandemic potential of this novel virus should not be underestimated," said the team headed by Yuelong Shu from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Beijing.
The warning stems from analysis of a virus sample taken from a 73-year-old woman who died in Nanchang, in southeastern Jiangxi province, on December 6 after being diagnosed with severe pneumonia and respiratory failure.
The Chinese authorities announced her death from H10N8 on December 18.
The Lancet study disclosed that a second case of H10N8 was recorded in Nanchang, on January 26. It did not give further details.
They are the first known human cases of H10N8, a virus that has been found only twice before in China -- once in a water sample from a lake in Hunan in 2007, and the second time in live poultry in Guangdong province in 2012.
But this particular strain is different from the ones found in those two samples, the study said.