Experts play down risk to humans

Experts have stressed the outbreak of bird flu at a farm in Suffolk poses no immediate risk to human health. The outbreak has been confirmed as the H5N1 strain of the virus which has infected 270 people, and killed 164 – most in south east Asia – since 2003. However, the virus cannot easily pass from human to human at present. So far, all those who have been infected have been poultry workers who have come into intimate contact with infected birds. Experts warn that if the virus acquires the ability to pass from human to human, then it will pose a potential threat to millions across the globe. Health chiefs in the UK have warned that if such a modified strain does emerge then tens of thousands of people could die in Britain alone. However, at present H5N1 remains overwhelmingly a disease of birds, and not humans. So at present the threat to human health from the outbreak in Suffolk is minimal – particularly as it appears to have been rapidly contained.

BBC News
February 20, 2007

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