2006-01-14-Bird Flu Outbreak In Turkey Started In Mid-November, Not Mid-DecemberUnderstanding Avian Influenza
2006-01-14-Bird Flu Outbreak In Turkey Started In Mid-November, Not Mid-December
According to the World Health Organisation, the current outbreak of avian flu in Turkey started at least three weeks before it was officially reported. So far there have been 18 confirmed human cases, of which 3 have died (all siblings).
Turkish officials had said the outbreak started in the middle of December. However, according to Huseyin Sungur, a veterinary surgeon who works for the Turkish government, the outbreak was affecting birds at least three weeks before.
Had this delay not happened it might have been easier to contain the initial outbreak near the border with Iran.
The World Health Organisation has also said that the H5N1 bird flu virus strain has mutated slightly. However, not enough to spread from human-to-human.
At the moment the H5N1 strain infects birds easily. Humans can catch it from birds, but not easily. Over 100 million birds have died over the last three years as a result of this virus strain, but only about 80 people. The virus cannot, at the moment, spread from person-to-person (only in extremely rare cases).
For a human to catch bird flu from a bird there has to be a lot of physical contact.
Health experts around the world say the virus will eventually mutate and become transmissible among humans. When this happens we could be facing a serious global flu pandemic.
One way the virus could mutate might be by infecting a human who has the flu (normal human flu). It could then exchange genetic information with the human flu virus and pick up its ability to spread among humans. If this newly mutated virus turned out to be as deadly as the current H5N1 strain, the consequences could be very serious. On the other hand, the mutated virus could end up being much less harmful.