Tags: bird | flu | human | infected

Bird Flu Infects First Human; Scientists Thought We Were Immune

Thursday, 14 Nov 2013 10:42 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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Scientists are trying hard to identify a bird flu strain after a Taiwanese woman was infected by one that doctors had previously thought humans were immune to.

The woman was diagnosed with the H6N1 strain of the bird flu, which had been previously circulated among Taiwanese chickens, prompting concerns that it could ignite a global outbreak, according to the Belfast Telegraph. 

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The case, which was first published online in the journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine, noted that the Taiwanese patient worked in a deli and had no known connection to live birds. Several of woman's family members and friends also developed flu-like symptoms but none tested positive for H6N1.

The Associated Press reported that since the first outbreak of bird flu strain H5N1 in 1996, health care officials have followed the progress of the various strains. So far H5N1 has killed more than 600 people, the majority of them in Asia. 

Another strain, H7N9, had not morphed into an easily contagious form, but scientists are still worried about its potential.

Marion Koopmans, a virologist at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands, wrote in a connected report that the flus often circulate quietly until humans become ill.

Koopman said since H6N1 and H7N9 never made birds very sick, the strains went overlooked.

"We can surely do better than to have human beings as sentinels," she wrote in her report.

The Belfast Telegraph reported that the company Novavax has had success in human testing of a possible vaccine for the H7N9 strain. The firm said it tested 284 people and most were able to produce enough antibodies to protect them. H7N9 has killed 45 people and infected at least 100 more since last spring.

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