Bird Flu Alarm



Understanding Avian Influenza

What are the implications for human health?

What are the implications for human health?

The widespread persistence of H5N1 in poultry populations poses two main risks for human health.

The first is the risk of direct infection when the virus passes from poultry to humans, resulting in very severe disease. Of the few avian influenza viruses that have crossed the species barrier to infect humans, H5N1 has caused the largest number of cases of severe disease and death in humans. Unlike normal seasonal influenza, where infection causes only mild respiratory symptoms in most people, the disease caused by H5N1 follows an unusually aggressive clinical course, with rapid deterioration and high fatality. Primary viral pneumonia and multi-organ failure are common. In the present outbreak, more than half of those infected with the virus have died. Most cases have occurred in previously healthy children and young adults.

A second risk, of even greater concern, is that the virus ? if given enough opportunities ? will change into a form that is highly infectious for humans and spreads easily from person to person. Such a change could mark the start of a global outbreak (a pandemic).