What Is Bird Flu? Should We Be Concerned? (cont.)

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Another issue of concern involves transmission of bird flu viruses among humans. While no one knows if this will be an imminent threat in the U.S., the potential is there. Human-to-human spread is currently very rare; the CDC has only documented it a few times, and these rare instances have only involved spread to one other person by an affected individual. This means that those humans who have been infected in the outbreaks in other countries have been poultry workers or others who have had contact with birds or surfaces contaminated by infected birds. The fear is that mutation of the virus will cause it to take on a form that will be easily spread from person to person, since flu viruses can change relatively rapidly. Should this happen, the danger for widespread infection of human beings (pandemic) would be significant.

Research studies to develop vaccines to the H5N1 bird flu virus are also under way.

For additional information about bird flu, please read the following articles:


Switzerland. World Health Organization (WHO). "Avian Influenza." <http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/en/>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Questions and Answers About Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) and Avian Influenza A (H5N1) Virus." May 28, 2008. <http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/>.

Last Editorial Review: 4/5/2013