May 28, 2008

Worried About H5N1? Now Here Comes H7 - The Bird Flu Strain That Could Cause A Pandemic And Kill Millions

Most of the public is ignoring the bird flu warnings, but those who are informed are following these developments closely.

As if H5N1 was not bad enough, now scientists are telling us of newer strains of the bird flu that could also cause a tremendous pandemic among humans.

The H7 strain of the bird flu is spreading rapidly worldwide, and it exhibits many of the characteristics which could cause it to one day spread rapidly among humans.....


Scientists identify second H7 strain of bird flu that could cause pandemic

Mark Henderson, Science Editor

The H5N1 strain of bird flu that has killed 241 people is not the only one that could trigger a pandemic, according to research in America. A few H7 strains of the flu virus have started to evolve some of the traits they would need to infect people easily, scientists have discovered.

The findings, from a team led by Terrence Tumpey, of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, show that while there is no immediate indication that H7 flu is about to acquire potentially damaging mutations, it is critical that global surveillance and research covers this virus class as well as the more obvious H5N1, scientists said.

The H5N1 strain has been regarded as the most deadly strain since it appeared in Asia in 2003. Although it has a death rate of more than 60 per cent, it has not yet acquired the ability to move from person to person, which would be a prerequisite for a pandemic.

There has been only one case in which it is considered probable that the virus was transmitted from person to person, and analysis of the virus's genetic structure has not yet revealed mutations that would allow it to infect people more easily. It is generally caught from close contact with infected birds, in which it is endemic in some parts of the world, particularly in Asia.

The H7 family of flu viruses also primarily affects birds. A deadly version of the H7N7 strain hit poultry in the Netherlands in 2003, and a less severe form, H7N2, broke out in the UK last year. Between 2002 and 2004 several outbreaks of H7N3 and H7N2 have been reported.

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