Bird Flu Outbreak in China: H5N1 Influenza Pandemic Fears Surge

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Ningxia region of China. Photo by Joowwww

Bird flu pandemic fears are back. Reports of an H5N1 outbreak in China have surfaced once again – are we in danger of an Avian flu epidemic?

According to the AFP, the outbreak started in the Township of Touying in the  Ningxia region last Friday, when more than 23,000 chickens began showing signs and symptoms of H5N1. The Ministry of Agriculture reported that the epidemic is under control, and preventive measures are being put into place. As of April 18, 2012, there have been no reports of humans becoming sick from this bird flu outbreak.

Avian flu, also known as H5N1, is an influenza viruses that occurs naturally among wild aquatic birds, and can infect domestic poultry and other birds as well. Most human cases of H5N1 have occurred as a result of a person having direct contact with infected poultry.

H5N1 Outbreaks in the Human Population: History

The H5N1 flu was first recognized in 1997 in Hong Kong, when it infected eighteen people and caused six deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Since then, outbreaks of the bird flu among humans have been sporadic and limited. For example, in February 2003, two cases of human H5N1 were reported in Hong Kong, one of which was fatal, and in January of 2004, Thailand and Viet Nam reported a small number of human cases as well. According to the WHO, from 2003 through April 12, 2012, there have been 602 cases with 355 fatalities. Indonesia, Egypt, and Viet Nam have reported the most cases.

Getting concerned? According to Flu.gov, there have not been any reported cases of H5N1 in birds, animals, or humans in the United States.

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