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Study Finds Number of Changes Make Bird Flu a Pandemic Risk

Recent research shows how many changes a flu virus needs to undergo become a deadly pandemic strain -- allowing scientists to watch for those mutated strains most likely to make H5N1 bird flu a global threat.

Researcher David Finkelstein of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee and his team said they identified 32 clear-cut changes in influenza viruses that differentiated a human flu from a bird flu.

They examined the sequences of viruses taken from various H5N1 avian flu victims, including seven Indonesians killed in a cluster. The Indonesians infected one another through human-to-human transmission of the virus, as opposed to catching H5N1 directly from a bird.

Even when the H5N1 influenza viruses infected people, each one had only made one or two of these changes at the most. "We never saw anything that approached the 13 that we saw in the [1918] Spanish flu [that killed millions worldwide]," Finkelstein reported.

"The pandemic virus from 1918, the Spanish flu, is halfway between a bird virus and a human virus. What is reassuring is the H5N1 appears be much more avian than that 1918 virus. So it is still on the bird side of things, which is good."

Health experts agree that the world is due for an influenza pandemic. There were three in the last century. The main suspect is the H5N1 avian flu, because it has infected hundreds of millions of birds globally and has hopped to people several times, killing 194 out of 321 people infected since 2003.

Tab 6 of the Quality America OSHA Safety Program Manual and Tab 7 of the Dental OSHA Safety Program Manual includes a Pandemic Flu Plan, this step-by-step guide covers pre-pandemic planning and post pandemic response for outpatient medical and dental facilities.

Source: Reuters. Wed Aug 22, 2007. http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSN2136874820070822

Posted by Quality America on September 25, 2007 | Comments (0)

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