24 November 2005

Avian Flu: What are the Risks?

Avian influenza, or bird flu, is a contagious viral disease caused by certain types of influenza viruses that occur naturally among birds. Usually, these viruses do not infect humans, but several cases of human infection with bird flu viruses have been reported recently.

Why could this become an Operational Risk for your organization? Currently, these viruses are circulating in bird populations in Asia, and have resulted in severe illness and death in humans. Since the recent outbreaks of this strain began in 2004, more than 120 people have been confirmed as infected and more than 60 have died. Most human cases are thought to have occurred through contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces. However, some scientists worry that if the virus were able to mutate and be able both to infect people and then to spread easily from person to person in a sustained fashion, a global "influenza pandemic" (worldwide outbreak of the disease) could begin.

This WHO Avian Flu Fact Sheet can provide some of the answers on the disease.

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