Bird Flu Alarm

2006-02-09-Global impact of bird flu

Understanding Avian Influenza

2006-02-09-Global impact of bird flu

Much of the world is now on alert for potential outbreaks of the lethal strain of bird flu that has become a major avian killer in South East Asia.

Millions of birds have died or been destroyed as a result of outbreaks in more than a dozen countries since the H5N1 strain began to take hold in 2003, before spreading into Eastern Europe during the second half of 2005.

The number of cases among humans is also rising, although at nowhere near the rate among birds.

By the end of 2005, more than 70 people had died from bird flu - a mortality rate of around 50%.

The first human deaths from H5N1 outside Asia, in January 2006, heightened concern, but the World Health Organization pointed out that the deaths, in Turkey, were among people who had been in close contact with infected birds, and were not passed from human to human.

But although the WHO points out that this is true of most human cases, governments around the world are being encouraged to develop a global policy to try to stem the advance of the virus.

The main fear is that with each new human case, the chances increase of a mutation that might create a more lethal strain that may transmit more easily from human to human.

The killer virus struck a third continent in February 2006 when an H5N1 outbreak was detected among domestic birds in Nigeria.


6 February 2006 (*Turkey data subject to WHO confirmation)
Country Cases Deaths
Cambodia 4 4
China 10 7
Indonesia 23 16
Iraq 1 1
Thailand 22 14
Turkey* 21 4
Vietnam 93 42
Total 174 88
Source: World Health Organization

Understanding Avian Influenza