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Bird Flu Passed by Humans

Health experts have been dreading the day when the Asianbird flu virus mutates, allowing it to be spread from personto person, and not just between poultry and people. Now theWorld Health Organization says it suspects "human-to-humantransmission" of bird flu occurred in northern Thailand. Ifthis is confirmed, it will be the first case and will meanthat the flu will undoubtedly spread rapidly throughout theworld, just as SARS did.

A brother and sister in Thailand died of the disease andafter visiting them in the hospital, their mother has alsodied. Their aunt is also ill. The WHO's Kumara Rai says, "Weare still almost firm that there was no contacts with sickbirds." However, until tests are done, it cannot beconfirmed that the family died from bird flu and the teststake several days. WHO says they are "very much concerned,but we are awaiting the laboratory confirmation."

Avian influenza's lethal H5N1 strain has killed 28 people inVietnam and Thailand this year, but so far, all of thesevictims caught the disease directly from poultry. In orderto prevent its spread, 100 million chickens have beenkilled. WHO is afraid that H5N1 could mutate into a highlycontagious form of killer flu. When asked if a confirmedviral link between the humans in Thailand would mark thefirst step in this mutation, Rai says, "I think so."

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