Atlanta—The emergence of the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian influenza among wild and domestic birds and its transmission to some humans illustrates the challenges of controlling the spread of a disease once it has infected multiple species. It also has put the world on notice that despite advances in medicine, sanitation, and public health, humans remain vulnerable to pandemics of new diseases.
These issues were the focus of many of the scientists who gathered here in March for the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases. Despite substantial public fears about the threat of avian influenza, many of these experts are quick to note it is unknown whether the next infectious disease pandemic will be the result of this virus or some other unknown pathogen developing the capacity to spread easily among humans. With this in mind, many scientists and public health and conservation organizations advocate wide-ranging, multidisciplinary efforts that focus on preventing the spread of diseases from animals to humans and vice versa.
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