Get ready for a possible resurgence of bird flu: The UN is warning that wild bird migrations have brought the deadly virus to formerly virus-free countries, and adds that a mutant strain of H5N1 is spreading in Asia. The mutant strain can get around the defenses of current vaccines, the UN said in a statement calling for greater surveillance of any possible outbreaks. A 6-year-old girl died Aug. 14 in Cambodia of bird flu, the eight H5N1 death in that country this year, the AP reports.
Avian flu has also been seen in countries like Israel, Mongolia, Bulgaria, and Romania, which had been clear of the virus for several years prior to this resurgence. Since H5N1 was first detected in 2003, 331 people have died. The number of outbreaks in poultry and wild bird populations shrank from a high of 4,000 to 302 in mid-2008, but outbreaks have risen progressively since, with almost 800 cases reported in 2010-2011. That “could mean that there will be a flare-up of H5N1 this fall and winter, with people unexpectedly finding the virus in their backyard,” says a UN official. (Read more bird flu stories.)