WITH NO NEW human cases of Hong Kong "bird flu" reported since the end of December, it would seem that the immediate risk of an influenza pandemic caused by H5N1, the avian virus responsible for 18 cases of influenza with 8 deaths, has receded. But, the possibility that human-to-human transmission of the virus might occur is still present, warned experts reporting some of the latest findings from the investigation in Hong Kong, China.
"We can't relax yet. It may take months or maybe even years before we can. This virus could still be ticking over in the human population in Hong Kong," Robert Webster, PhD, told the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last month. Webster is chair of the Department of Virology and Molecular Biology at St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
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