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Avian Flu Outbreak Sets Off Alarm Bells

Avian Flu Outbreak Sets Off Alarm Bells

Science 300: 8

Public health officials in the Netherlands have reported an unexpected human health toll of an avian influenza outbreak. For the past 2 months, an epidemic of avian influenza, caused by the H7N7 strain, has spread through Dutch poultry farms. More than 80 poultry workers and others have developed conjunctivitis, with strong evidence of transmission of the virus to a family member in 3 cases. Furthermore, on April 17, a veterinarian who had visited a poultry farm died of pneumonia, apparently caused massive amounts of avian influenza virus in his lungs. Although flu experts claim that the strain is not very efficient at person-to-person transmission, there is a small risk that it could become more contagious if it evolves over time or recombines with a human flu strain. To reduce this risk, authorities are urging poultry workers to be vaccinated against currently circulating human strains.

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