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What exactly is bird flu?

india Updated: Jan 18, 2008 23:32 IST

Hindustan Times
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Bird flu is an infectious disease caused by several subtypes of the Influenza A virus, which is known to affect birds, particularly migratory birds, ducks and chickens. It is also called avian influenza or avian flu. The highly pathogenic Influenza A virus subtype H5N1 virus is an emerging avian influenza virus that has been causing global concern as a potential pandemic threat.

H5N1 has killed millions of poultry in a growing number of countries throughout Asia, Europe and Africa. Since the first H5N1 outbreak occurred in 1997, there has been an increasing number of HPAI H5N1 bird-to-human transmissions leading to clinically severe and fatal human infections. However, because there is a significant species barrier that exists between birds and humans, the virus does not easily cross over to humans, though some cases of infection are being researched to discern whether human to human transmission is occurring. More research is necessary to understand the pathogenesis and epidemiology of the H5N1 virus in humans. Exposure routes and other disease transmission characteristics such as genetic and immunological factors, that may increase the likelihood of infection, are not clearly understood.