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Dr. Kim Mulvihill ReportingNew outbreaks of the bird flu in Asia could trigger a worldwide health crisis. It’s an example of how an infectious disease can mutate and jump from one species to another, in this case from birds to people.
Scott Harper, MD\CDC Medical Officer: “Fresh outbreaks of a deadly strain of avian flu are cropping up in Thailand, China and Vietnam.”
A new study in the Scientific Journal Nature found domestic ducks in southern China played a central role in the creation of the strain, and that wild birds are helping to spread it through Asia.
Results of the extensive five year study of the virus reveals troubling news. The findings suggest the highly infections and lethal form of the virus is now more widespread than believed, that it is mutating and won't be easy to fight, and that at poses a potential threat to world health.
Scott Harper, MD/CDC: “The real threat to humans is that it could mutate yet again and become efficiently transmissible between person to person. And if that were the case we could potentially see activity that occurred in pandemics in the 20th century, such as that occurred in 1918 where upwards of 40 million people died worldwide in a single year.
Dr. Scott Harper is an infectious disease specialist at the CDC and for the next two weeks, teaching and seeing patients at the San Francisco V.A. Medical Center. He says increased surveillance is key.
Scott Harper, MD/CDC: “This virus -- the avian influenza virus -- has seeded itself in a large geographic distribution in many many flocks across Asia and southeast Asia. And business as usual in terms of being able to cull flocks for small outbreaks is not gong to work anymore in China, in terms of trying to control the outbreaks.”
Earlier this year, this strain of the virus ravaged Asia's poultry industry and killed twenty-four people in Vietnam and Thailand.
The Centers for Disease Control is currently working on a plan to deal with a possible influenza pandemic in the US.