Bird Flu: How Deadly Is It?

I wrote in October that the biggest story of the year might be the possible outbreak of a flu pandemic. According to The New York Times, I and many others may have been sounding the alarm too quickly. Here’s an excerpt from the Time‘s article:

Two young brothers, ages 4 and 5, who have tested positive for the dreaded A(H5N1) avian virus but shown no symptoms of the disease were being closely watched at Kecioren Hospital here on Tuesday. Doctors are unsure whether they are for the first time seeing human bird flu in its earliest stages or if they are discovering that infection with the A(H5N1) virus does not always lead to illness.

In any case, the highly unusual cluster of five cases detected here in Turkey‘s capital over the last three days – all traceable to contact with sick birds – is challenging some of the doctors’ assumptions about bird flu and giving them new insights into how it spreads and causes disease. Since none of the five have died, it is raising the possibility that human bird flu is not as deadly as currently thought, and that many mild cases in Asian countries may have gone unreported.

Here is at least one instance in which I will be thrilled to find out that I was wrong.

Update: There’s an editorial today on this topic in The Washington Post: “Bird Flu Harbingers.”

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