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Dangers of Man-Made Bird Flu Are Exaggerated, Its Creators Say

Researchers who created a so-called superstrain of H5N1 bird flu say the virus may not be as lethal or as virulent as has been widely suggested.

This week, at a meeting of experts attending the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) in Washington, D.C., Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Center who led one of two groups that developed the man-made strain of H5N1 told his colleagues that two misconceptions about his work have circulated in the media.

The first is that the strain he generated in the lab was easily spread, Fouchier said. In testing the transmissibility of the virus among ferrets in the lab (ferrets are often used to study flu because the animals are a good model for how humans would respond to the virus), he found that, in fact, not all healthy ferrets that were exposed to the coughs and sneezes of sick animals became infected.

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