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What is bird flu?

Everybody's had the flu at some time in their lives, with its familiar symptoms: aches, chills, fatigue and cough. So why is the "bird flu" making so many headlines?

The deadly virus H5N1 is a strain of influenza normally found only in chickens, turkeys and a variety of other birds. In certain countries, including Vietnam, Indonesia, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Egypt and Turkey, this H5N1 virus has spread to a handful of humans. To date, of the 218 people who have been infected by bird flu, more than half have died. The victims are believed to have contracted bird flu after coming in contact with feces, blood or mucus of infected birds.

At the moment, there is not conclusive evidence that the virus can spread from one human to another. However, this could soon change because the bird flu virus mutates so rapidly. If a mutated strain were able to spread from human to human—an occurrence some medical experts say is inevitable—this highly contagious flu could travel around the globe in a matter of days, infecting every city in every country on the planet.
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FROM: Bird Flu: The Untold Story
Published on January 24, 2006

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