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Why Bird Flu Has Not Caused a Pandemic

Bird flu viruses would have to make at least two simultaneous genetic mutations before they could be transmitted readily from human to human, according to research published November 19 in PLoS One.

The authors of the new study, from Imperial College London, the University of Reading and the University of North Carolina, USA, argue that it is very unlikely that two genetic mutations would occur at the same time. This new study adds to our understanding of why avian influenza has not yet caused a pandemic. Earlier this year, the Imperial researchers also showed that avian influenza viruses do not thrive in humans because, at 32 degrees Celsius, the temperature inside a person's nose is too low.

H5 strains of influenza are widespread in bird populations around the world. The viruses occasionally infect humans and the H5N1 strain has infected more than 400 people since 2003.
 
 

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