Avian Flu Evolves to Become More Contagious Among Mammals
The Avian Flu that has ravaged poultry farms for the last two years continues to spread to new species. The virus is responsible for the deaths of over 50 million farm-raised birds in the US alone, which contributed to the sky high egg and turkey prices this winter. This H5N1 strain of Avian Flu has recently undergone more mutations that make it much more transmissible from mammal to mammal. Scientists warn that this evolutionary step will help the H5N1 persist in the environment, which further accelerates its mutations. While the risk of human infection remains very low, these developments increase the chances that the virus one day becomes a larger threat to people. Since 2003 only 868 people have been infected by this virus. Although human Avian Flu cases are rare, over half of the infected people have died. However, almost all people who contract bird flu have been in direct contact or worked closely with birds. The virus also has not developed the ability to spread from person to person. If it does it could lead to a global pandemic. Scientists are watching the virus closely for signs of further mutations.