Deadly strain strikes birds from Denmark to Myanmar
Bird flu was confirmed in four Asian nations and Denmark Thursday and may have killed turkeys in Israel, and scientists outlined the genetic changes needed to turn the virus into a human pandemic.
Afghanistan, India and Myanmar said tests had confirmed H5N1 caused recent outbreaks in birds, while Malaysia reported new cases in a wild bird and dead chickens.
Denmark, the latest European country affected, said tests showed a wild buzzard found south of Copenhagen had H5N1.
In India, veterinary workers began throttling more than 70,000 birds to try to control the latest outbreak there. Hundreds of people were also tested for fever.
“There is no time for niceties. The birds have to be killed as fast as possible,” said Bijay Kumar, animal husbandry commissioner of the state of Maharashtra, where bird flu resurfaced this week in backyard poultry.
Bird flu has spread with alarming speed in recent weeks across Europe, Africa and parts of Asia, leaving impoverished nations such as Afghanistan and Myanmar appealing for protective clothing and other basic equipment.
Bird flu is hard to catch, but people can contract it after coming into contact with infected birds.
U.S. scientists reported Thursday that they had found two small mutations that the virus would need to make to evolve into a human pandemic form, and said field tests could be used to monitor for the changes.
The more bird flu spreads, the greater the fear the virus will evolve into a form that could easily pass between people, triggering a pandemic in which millions could die.
Three young women who died in recent weeks in Azerbaijan, on the crossroads between Europe and Asia, tested positive for H5N1 infection. If the World Health Organization confirms that, their deaths would take the human toll to more than 100.
In Serbia, a teenager from a bird flu-stricken area was put in isolation after developing a high fever.
“The boy is from the family where we found a rooster with clinical symptoms of bird flu,” Syria’s chief epidemiologist Predrag Kon told Reuters. He said the youth would be kept in isolation for 72 hours or until the possibility of bird flu had been ruled out.