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Japan has banned imports of poultry and eggs from Texas after tests showed possible avian influenza in a flock of ducks in the state, U.S. federal and state officials said.
[...] The Texas Animal Health Commission restricted movement of about 1,000 domesticated ducks in the north-central part of the state after routine tests at an associated live bird market found a “weak positive” result for avian flu, the state agency said in an e-mailed statement.
KF: What kind of damage could it do in terms of population mortality?
MG: Currently H5N1 kills approximately 60% of those it infects, so you don't even get a coin toss chance of survival. That's a mortality rate on par with some strains of Ebola. Thankfully, only a few hundred people have become infected. Should a virus like H5N1 trigger a pandemic, though, the results could be catastrophic. During a pandemic as many as 2 or 3 billion people can become infected. A 60% mortality rate is simply unimaginable. Unfortunately, it's not as far-fetched as it sounds. Both China and Indonesia have reported sporadic outbreaks of the H5N1 bird flu in pigs and sporadic outbreaks of the new pandemic virus H1N1 in pigs as well. Should a pig become co-infected with both strains, a hybrid mutant could theoretically arise with human transmissibility of swine flu and the human lethality of bird flu. That's the kind of nightmare scenario that keeps virologists up at night.
KF: How easy is it to contract the virus once it's in full swing?
MG: Catching a pandemic flu virus is essentially as easy as catching the regular seasonal flu. During a flu pandemic about 1 in 5 people may fall ill, but there are certainly ways to minimize one's risk via hand-washing and social distancing techniques. In a really severe pandemic, though, the advice would be to "shelter-in-place," isolating oneself and one's family in one's home until the danger passes. During such a pandemic the Department of Homeland Security uses as a key planning assumption that the American population would be asked to self-quarantine for up to 90 days per wave of the pandemic.
A team of scientists from the U.S., Indonesia and Japan, led by virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin — Madison, combined a strain of the deadly H5N1 avian virus with strains of H3N2 human seasonal flu, creating 254 new, mutated viruses. By injecting them in lab mice, researchers found that some of the hybrid viruses were both deadly (like bird flu) and transmissible (like seasonal human flu) — the kind of genetically mutated superflu viruses that experts have been warning about for decades. Read more: www.time.com...