| Measuring the Bird Flu Threat

Almost a decade after the first outbreak of H5N1 (PDF), a highly pathogenic form of avian influenza, researchers and international health organizations continue monitoring the disease as a global health threat. As this new Backgrounder explains, the disease commonly known as “bird flu” already has wreaked economic and animal health havoc, killing hundreds of millions of chickens and spreading beyond its origins in Southeast Asia to the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. The human case count remains relatively low at 258, although 2006 has been the deadliest year on record thus far with seventy-five deaths. Scientists and policymakers remain concerned that the virus, capable of spreading from infected birds to humans, could become a lethal pandemic if it evolves to allow for easy human-to-human transmission. 

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