The Bird Flu Is Back Again, The U.N. Says

Written by Rob Soto on Aug. 30, 2011

The United Nations says that the bird flu may be making a comeback in Asia and a variant resistant to vaccines may be spreading. The strain of avian H5N1 influenza, seen in Vietnam and China, possibly could be spread to humans, according to the World Health Organization. The Food and Agriculture Organization notes that it poses “unpredictable risks to human health.”

The virus has been for the most part eliminated since its peak in 2006, but 49 human infections have been confirmed this year along with 25 deaths, most of which have taken place in Egypt. It remains an endemic in India, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Egypt, and Bangladesh.

In addition, the new strain threatens Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia, according to Juan Lubroth, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization veterinary chief officer.

“Wild birds may introduce the virus, but people’s actions in poultry production and marketing spread it,” he said, noting that the number of cases have been on rise since 2008 because of migratory bird movements.

The H5N1 epidemic was first detected in 2003 when humans began falling ill and died, and it has affected wild birds and domestic poultry. Migration of birds has spread the disease to eastern Asia and places where it once was thought to have been eradicated.