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New Bird Flu Danger: Healthy Ducks

Bird Flu is an extremely dangerous disease in human beings,with a 70% death rate. The entire world health community hasbeen watching for two years to see if the disease shouldmutate and become transmissible between people. Now theWorld Health Organization reports that seemingly healthyducks can carry the disease and humans can catch it fromthem. If Bird Flu becomes transmissible from person to person, itis believed by some scientists that it could pose the worstpandemic threat in history. Should it get out of control, abillion lives could be at risk.

32 people have been killed already this year in Thailand andVietnam from the avian flu. So far, transmission has beenthought to be only from chickens to humans, but in recentcases, it seems there is evidence of human to humantransmission. This has yet to be confirmed, with labs in theUnited States failing to find any mutation so far,suggesting that the virus is still an animal virus.

Officials at the World Health Organization are concernedabout the possibility of a pandemic similar to the 1918 fluwhich killed over 20 million people. Especially distressingare the studies indicating that the strain of avian flu nowaffecting Asia lasts three times as long as it did last yearin warmer temperatures, explaining why the flu continued torampage Asia during the past warm summer months.

Without a vaccine, however, there is very little the WHO cando in the face of an epidemic, particularly if the virusbecomes able to pass from human to human. In early November,WHO is hosting a conference in Geneva includingpharmaceutical firms to discuss the development of a vaccineto ward off any avian flu epidemic.

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