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The H5N1 bird flu virus has killed 500 people - and outbreaks sparked terror around the world about the possibility of a global pandemic.
So far, the virus has not been contagious enough to pose a threat of a global pandemic. Sick people don't pass it readily to the healthy.
But that might change.
At a flu conference in Malta this September, virologist Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands made an astounding, and terrifying, announcement.
He found that a few simple genetic tweaks to the virus made it far more infectious among ferrets - a standard animal model used to study how viruses spread among humans.
Fouchier found that a mere five mutations to the virus were sufficient to make it spread far more easily.