The bird flu, also known as the avian flu, first caught the world’s attention in 2004, when it wiped out more than 16.2 million birds in Asia in a little over a year. It then spread to humans, infecting a small number of people, but with disastrous results. (Ricks, 2009)
What is the bird flu?
The bird flu, named as such because it is believed to have originated from chickens and poultry, is a particularly lethal form of the H5N1 flu virus. It first cropped up in Asia, but thankfully, has not yet caused major pandemics in other parts of the world.
How dangerous/deadly is the bird flu?
Thus far H5N1 has a 63% global average mortality rate, and an even higher 82% mortality rate in Indonesia. (Garrett, 2009) This makes it around 8,000 times as deadly as the swine flu virus. It is this high mortality rate that has scientists so concerned. If it were to mutate in a way that made it more transmissible and caused a worldwide epidemic, it could wipe out large swaths of the human population.
Avian flu has since gone to the backburner of public consciousness, but it’s still a concern. “When a pandemic didn’t happen the week after the bird flu stories broke, the stories were no longer interesting,” says Michael Gregor, director of public health and animal agriculture at the humane society of the United States and author of Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching. “For many people, bird flu is the story of the boy who cried wolf. And just like the story, not only is the wolf real, but it is still out there.” (Ricks, 2009)