The avian flu must be stopped before sustained transmission among humans

A recent European Food Safety Authority report says 561 avian influenza detections were made between August-December in 15 European countries and the U.K. The virus was predominantly found in wild birds, and a few in poultry and captive birds. H5N1 and H5N8 were two of three subtypes found in Europe. Genetic analysis helped confirm the spread from Asia to west-central Europe, suggesting a “persistent circulation of this virus strain, likely in wild birds in Asia”. While avian influenza virus crossing the species barrier and directly infecting humans happens occasionally, human-to-human spread has been rare. But mutations or genetic reassortment of an avian influenza A virus and a human influenza A virus in a person can create a new influenza A virus that could likely result in sustained transmission between humans, thus increasing the risk of a pandemic influenza. Hence, all efforts should be directed at stamping out the outbreaks in the affected States. It is also important to undertake genome sequencing of virus samples to track the evolution of the virus.

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