Bird Flu Pandemic inevitable, 7 million people could die, WHO
Posted by Clark Venable on 11/27/2004
Bird Flu Pandemic inevitable, 7 million people could die, WHO:
Stohr is urging health ministries in Asian countries to prepare and take measures for a probable flu pandemic. Dr Stohr insists it is only a matter of time - we have gone beyond wondering whether there will be one, the stage now is trying to forecast ‘when' a pandemic will hit.
Dr Stohr says the next pandemic will most likely come from a mutation of the bird (avian) flu virus. He said "Even with the best-case scenarios, the most optimistic scenarios, the pandemic will cause a public health emergency. There are estimates which would put the number of deaths in the range of between two and seven million."
The H5N1 bird flu strain, the most dangerous, has hit Thailand and Vietnam hard. Millions of poultry have had to be destroyed - 30 people have died.
The virus only kills humans who have close contact with infected poultry. The concern among health experts is that the virus could mutate and spread from human to human. If the virus were to infect a pig, the jump (mutation) from pig to human would be much more likely (emphasis mine).
If the strain were to mutate and have the ability to spread among humans, nobody would be immune - the consequences could be catastrophic. According to Stohr, this could happen at any time.
WHO experts say that countries in Asia which have the weakest health systems are precisely the ones that need the most support as they are the most likely places to host the beginnings of a pandemic. ""
That bolded phrase--The concern among health experts is that the virus could mutate and spread from human to human. If the virus were to infect a pig, the jump (mutation) from pig to human would be much more likely--deserves further explanation. I'm reading the book The Great Influenza, by John M. Barry, who gives a nice summary of why pigs can make it fly (so to speak):
For more information, see The World Health Organization page on pandemic preparedness.
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