Deadly Mutant H5N1 Bird Flu Strain Hits Vietnam, China - Could Spread West

( [email protected] ) Aug 31, 2011 11:06 AM EDT

The United Nations issued a warning on Monday morning that a strain of the bird flu, also known as the H5N1 virus, could be spreading throughout Asia.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued the warning that concluded that the Avian Influenza virus could be spreading as a result of the migrations of wild birds into other countries, including China and Vietnam.

The warning also indicated that the deadly influenza virus is making a comeback to previously virus-free countries.

The virus is spreading a lot of fear because as a mutant strain it would be able to sidestep vaccines as witnessed in the cases of China and Vietnam and that could cause a major resurgence of the virus.

The latest human death to result from the virus happened in Cambodia earlier this month with the virus claiming the life of a 6-year-old girl.

Cambodia has already had eight fatal cases of the H5N1 virus in 2011 alone.

The FAO warning included an urging by the organization for heightened readiness and surveillance against a possible major resurgence of the virus.

The virus emerged in 2003 and has infected 565 people since.

Of the 565 people that contracted the virus, the World Health Organization has estimated that 331 of them were killed by it.

The indicated cases of the virus were undergoing a progressive decline between 2004-2008. However, from 2010 to 2011 outbreaks of the virus have risen steadily with almost 800 cases recorded among poultry.

FAO Chief Juan Lubroth believes that the virus is spreading due to migratory birds that travel over long distances and spread the virus.

However, Lubroth noted that although wild birds may introduce the virus it is “peoples’ actions in poultry production and marketing” that spread it.

Lubroth told CBS in a statement that the departure from a progressive decline of the virus to an incline of reported cases could mean that there will be “a flare-up of H5N1 this fall and winter.”

He also added that people could unexpectedly find the virus “in their backyard.”

The virus is also being reported as spreading into new areas with Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Nepal, Mongolia, Romania, and Bulgaria reporting cases.

However, veterinary officials have noted that the risk to humans, if the virus were to further spread, cannot be predicted.