Avian Flu Update

We ring in the New Year with I.I.I. chief economist and resident bird flu expert Dr. Steven Weisbart’s year-end update on H5N1 (the Avian Flu). Dr Weisbart reports that in 2007, 83 people were confirmed to have been infected with the disease, and 55 of them have died (66 percent). This brings the cumulative total to 346 confirmed infected and 213 dead since December 2003 (the start of the current outbreak) through 2007. The year had roughly the same pace of infections and deaths as in 2006 (69 percent death rate), though the number of cases is down from 115. Dr Weisbart explains that the lethality rate of the virus varies substantially: in 2007, 6 of 23 (26 percent) of those infected in Egypt died, compared to 36 of 41 (88 percent) of those infected in Indonesia. In 2007, infection and death reached several new counties, including one case each in Myanmar, Nigeria, and Pakistan, and two cases in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Vietnam, which had no infections and deaths in 2006, 2005 or 2004, had 8 infections (5 deaths) in 2007. Human infection is still believed to be mainly from birds to humans, basically from very close contact with infected chickens and similar birds in home environments. Virtually all of the cases continue to be under 40 years old. There are still no cases of birds or people in the U.S. with this flu virus.

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