Bird flu; H5N1
Avian influenza is flu infection in birds. The virus that causes the bird infectin can change (mutate) to infect humans. Such mutation could start a deadly worldwide epidemic.
The first avian influenza virus to infect humans occurred in Hong Kong in 1997. The epidemic was linked to chickens and classified as avian influenza A (H5N1).
Human cases of avian influenza A (H5N1) have since been reported in Asia, Africa, Europe, Indonesia, Vietnman, the Pacific, and the near East. Hundreds of people have become sick with this virus. Slightly more than 60% of those who became ill have died.
The more the avian flu virus spreads, the greater the chances of a worldwide outbreak in humans. There is a tremendous concern that H5N1 poses an enormous pandemic threat.
The following people have a higher risk for developing the bird flu:
Health care workers and household contacts of patients with avian influenza may also be at an increased risk of the bird flu.
The avian flu virus (H5N1) has been shown to survive in the environment for long periods of time. Infection may be spread simply by touching contaminated surfaces. Birds who were infected with this flu can continue to release the virus in their feces and saliva for as long as 10 days.
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US Food and Drug Administration. FDA Approves First U.S. Vaccine for Humans Against the Avian Influenza Virus H5N1. Rockville, MD: National Press Office; April 17, 2007. Release P07-68
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