Study: bird flu more widespread than thought

Study: bird flu more widespread than thought

U.S. Researchers write this after reviewing 20 studies in the journal science. Taia T. Wang and peter palese of the mount sinai school of medicine in new york (USA) question the WHO criteria for detecting infection with the pathogen. These may have taken into account only severe cases of bird flu, in which patients end up in hospital and have a poorer prognosis of surviving the disease.

In the new evaluation, an estimated one to two percent of more than 12,500 study participants had evidence of a previous avian flu infection in the blood. On the whole, they showed no symptoms of respiratory or febrile illness beforehand, write wang and palese.

According to the "science" authors, the avian flu viruses are most prevalent in people and birds in poorer areas where health care is scarce. They theorize that many people with the infection are not screened and it cannot be confirmed. In addition, people with traces of bird flu infection in their blood often reported that they did not have flu-like symptoms, wang and colleagues say. Mild cases were not taken into account by the WHO.

WHO says nearly 600 human cases of avian flu have been reported worldwide since 2003. Nearly 60 percent of patients died as a result, according to WHO data.

If one to two percent of at-risk populations were actually affected, millions of people could have had contact with the viruses at some point, researchers conclude. It could also be that the number of deaths from bird flu viruses is underestimated. But because they can’t prove it from the data, researchers are calling for a large-scale investigation to determine whether the pathogen is dangerous.

The H5N1 virus made headlines in recent weeks because researchers had grown a highly contagious variant in the lab. Among other things, the U.S. Had raised concerns that this "supervirus" could be used as a bioweapon. A WHO symposium with the participation of the scientists in question came to the conclusion that research into the variant virus should continue to be suspended for the time being and that the instructions for building it should not be published for the time being.

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