CDC study warns of bird flu strain with potential to infect humans

6/10/2008

ATLANTA The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday released results of a study suggesting that some North American avian influenza AH7 virus strains have properties that might enhance their potential to infect humans as well as their potential to spread from human to human.

“We know that influenza viruses are constantly changing and that is why it?s so important to watch them carefully. In this study, we discovered that some recently identified avian influenza A H7 viruses have some properties that could enhance their potential to infect people and possibly spread among people,” explained Jessica Belser, CDC lead author on the project.

The study was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. Avian influenza A H7 viruses are fairly common in birds, but rarely infect humans. Most cases of avian influenza infection in humans have resulted from contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces.

“The results of this study underscore the importance of continued influenza virus surveillance,” said Belser.

The big scare that has coursed through the media the past few years has been the H5N1 avian flu virus, however. Health officials have also been closely monitoring this strain, which began spreading among birds and poultry in Asia in 2003 and has spread to birds in other countries in Europe, the Near East and Africa. Nearly 400 human cases of H5N1 have been reported worldwide, though none of these have occurred in the Northern Hemisphere. Most of these cases have occurred from direct or close contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces; however, a few cases of human-to-human spread of H5N1 virus have occurred.

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