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Bird flu mutates to remain a serious pandemic risk

Posted by Michille on October 31st, 2006

HONG KONG (AFP) – Experts have renewed their warnings of a bird flu pandemic after a new resistant strain of the H5N1 virus deadly to humans and poultry was found to have spread throughout the region.

Scientists in Hong Kong and the United States believe the new virus — dubbed the “Fujian-like” strain — may have mutated in response to vaccination programs designed to halt the disease in farm flocks.

“The development of highly pathogenic avian H5N1 influenza viruses in poultry in Eurasia, accompanied with the increase in human infections in 2006, suggests the virus has not been effectively contained and that the pandemic threat persists,” said a report in the American academic publication “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”.

“Studies suggest that H5N1 seroconversion (development of antibodies in blood serum as a result of infection or immunization) in market poultry is low and that vaccination may have facilitated the selection of the Fujian-like sublineage,” it added.

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