CDC outlines bird flu pandemic likelihood

Aug. 1, 2006 at 11:25 AM
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ATLANTA, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it has decided the likelihood of an avian-flu virus pandemic is less than previously thought.

CDC scientists reached the conclusion after conducting a simulation of one of the two main ways the H5N1 virus might follow in adapting to humans. In that simulation the virus did not create a lethal version that could infect humans, The Wall Street Journal reported.

But scientists cautioned a pandemic might still occur with the avian flu virus evolving in a different manner.

The Atlanta-headquartered CDC experiment involved mixing the bird flu virus with a common human influenza virus. In an alternative transformation, the H5N1 virus might genetically mutate on its own, as it's believed an avian flu virus did to cause the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed millions of people around the world, the Journal said.

CDC Director Julie Gerberding warned the experiment doesn't mean there's no danger of a pandemic. "These data do not mean that H5N1 cannot convert to become transmissible," she said, only that "it is probably not a simple process."

The CDC experiment is reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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