Most recently the world was worried about Swine Flu also known as H1N1. Now health officials are concerned about Bird Flu or Avian Flu.
The Bird Flu strain H5N1 is now spreading in China and Vietnam and health officials are closely monitoring the disease in poultry and wild birds to make sure it doesn’t spread to people.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned of a possible resurgence of bird flu and said a mutant strain of the H5N1 was spreading in Asia and beyond.
Scientists are not sure if this new strain H5N1 is more virulent in people, they said it is different enough that current bird flu vaccines wouldn’t help protect people. “There is a human H5N1 vaccine candidate that is a recommended vaccine … But it doesn’t confer full protection against the (new variant),” said leading virologist Malik Peiris at the University of Hong Kong.
H5N1 kills up to 60 percent of the people it infects. It has resurfaced in recent months, most notably in Cambodia where it has infected eight people this year, killing all of them.
“It doesn’t necessarily indicate that this particular virus strain is more virulent to humans. But it is a threat because it has become more widespread globally.”
At this point, the Atlanta based CDC says H5N1 doesn’t pose a threat in the U.S. However, that could change quickly. The CDC says, H5N1 virus infections among domestic poultry have become endemic in certain areas and that sporadic human infections resulting from direct contact with infected poultry and/or wild birds will continue to occur. So far, the spread of H5N1 virus from person-to-person has been very rare, limited and unsustained. However, this epizootic continues to pose an important public health threat.
For more on the Bird Flu from Atlanta’s CDC website, click here.