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Tick. Tick. Tick. H5N1 Moves to Niger

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From WSJ.com (subscription required):

Niger has become the second sub-Saharan African country with confirmed cases of the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain, a lab official said Monday….

Experts have been particularly concerned about the spread of H5N1 to Africa, unprepared for such a health crisis because of weak infrastructure. The virus is believed to have spread unchecked in Nigeria before it was identified, and Nigeria’s efforts to contain it have been hampered by lack of resources and information….

H5N1 bird flu has spread from Asia to at least 10 European countries and in the Middle East and Africa, and scientists fear it could mutate into a form that is easily transmitted between humans, sparking a pandemic. So far, it has been transmitted only from birds to human, and then only with difficulty.

The disease has killed more than 90 people, mostly in Southeast Asia, according to the World Health Organization.

Last week, a WHO spokeswoman said experts were to test samples from four possible human cases in Nigeria, but have yet to confirm that H5N1 has infected people in Africa.

The fear is that even the weak efforts to contain the virus in China and Indonesia will look comprehensive alongside the surrender to fate that will operate in some parts of Africa. If unchecked among bird populations, the opportunities for widespread transmission will be huge among birds, and a growth in the opportunities for the mutation of the disease that will start the pandemic that has thus far been avoided via vigilance around the globe.

The WSJ.com’s Avia Flu News tracker remains the best place to update on the path of the virus at least daily.

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