Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Bird Flu

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Bird Flu

Article excerpt

Byline: By Jane Picken

All you need to know on the latest outbreak and how it could affect us

Dr John Woodhouse, North East regional director of the Health Protection Agency, gives health reporter Jane Picken the facts on the dangers of avian flu to humans

Question: Exactly what is bird flu and should we worry about it affecting humans?

Avian influenza, or bird flu, is a highly contagious disease of birds caused by influenza A viruses. There are many different types of bird flu which cause a range of symptoms in birds from mild illness to a highly contagious disease with a near 100% fatality rate in birds.

The bird flu virus currently affecting poultry in Suffolk is the same highly pathogenic H5N1 strain which has affected many hundreds of thousands of birds in Asia and some parts of Europe.

H5N1 can infect people but only as a result of direct contact with the faeces and other bodily fluids from dead or dying infected birds. It does not spread from person to person.

Question: Why hasn't there been a massive outbreak among humans and should we really be worried?

Despite the hundreds of thousands of birds which have been infected with H5N1 avian flu, there have only been 271 human cases worldwide, of which 165 were fatal, since it was first identified in 2003. All were caused by direct contact with infected birds.

H5N1 does not cause significant outbreaks in humans because it only spreads through direct contact with infected birds.

Health experts at the World Health Organization (WHO) are concerned about H5N1 because there is mounting evidence that the strain has a capacity to infect species other than birds and cause severe disease, with high mortality, in people. If H5N1 changes into a new strain which does spread easily between people it could trigger a flu pandemic which could affect up to a quarter of all people. …

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