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February 28, 2006
Bird Flu Mutates
The World Health Organization indicates that as the H5N1 virus mutates, it is becoming more deadly to poultry, but not necessarily more likely to be transmitted to human beings or more risky to human beings. WHO
The virus, which has spread in recent months from Asia into Russia, Africa and western Europe, has so far killed more than 90 people and forced the slaughter of millions of birds. Western Europe is on high alert - since Germany, Austria, France and Italy have cases in wild birds. 11 nations worldwide reported outbreaks over the past three weeks, an indication that the virus, which has killed at least 92 people, is spreading faster. "The recent appearance of the virus in birds in a rapidly growing number of countries is of public health concern," it said. "It expands opportunities for human exposures and infections to occur.">
The danger was increased when the virus jumped from wild to domestic birds, which was easiest when poultry lived in close contact with humans, as in Africa and parts of Asia. Although H5N1 remains difficult for humans to catch, scientists fear it could mutate to be easily passed from person to person and trigger a pandemic in which millions could die.
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