A new warning has come about the deadly strain of avian flu that has caused the destruction of hundreds of millions of poultry around the world, especially in Asia.
But this time, the Associated Press reports, the threat is not so much whether the H5N1 strain will mutate into a virus that could infect millions of humans, but whether the destruction it has already caused will create a food shortage.
Communicable disease experts meeting at an infectious disease conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia acknowledged that H5N1 keeps erupting, even after local health officials believe they've brought an outbreak under control. "It's like a boiling pot, and we need to keep the lid on that before it gets worse," UN representative Juan Lubroth told the AP
Lubroth said more than 240 million birds have been destroyed because of H5N1, and for poor people who raise their own food, the scarcity of poultry as a cheep protein source could cause hardship and hunger.
Insofar as the H5N1 strain mutating so that it can be spread from human to human, officials warned that possibility still remains, the wire service reported.
The disease is indeed deadly when humans become infected, the AP said, with 241 out of 385 who contracted it since 2003 dying. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Julie Gerberding warned against complacency.
"People have very short attention spans, and when something is in the news for a while, it becomes old news and then it's no news," the AP quotes her as saying.