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At present the Avian Flu (H5N1) is being tracked as a possible contender for the next devastating pandemic. It first caught the attention of the scientific community in 1997 when whole flocks of domestic birds were decimated by its violent onset. Since that time it has followed the usual pattern – mutating to host in tigers and pigs with sporadic outbreaks of human infection. The casualty rate appears to be unusually high in its human victims, so again it registered on the scientific community's radar screen. In recent months we have watched as the human outbreaks clustered, spread and clustered again. At present there is no definitive case of human-to-human spread of H5N1. We wait with baited breath for that news,
If H5N1 Avian Flu proves to be the next pandemic influenza, what awaits us in the months ahead? Actually, we are at a crossroad with this influenza virus. If it morphs for human-to-human spread, we will want to know its virulence. A highly contagious influenza could spread worldwide within a few short weeks.
A virulent strain could infect 50% of the population and claim 30-60% of those lives in a matter of days or weeks. The effect, internationally, could be devastating.
Of course H5N1 could also prove to be minimally virulent and cause little disruption internationally. So we watch and we wait.
Copyright 2006 Mrs. C.
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