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Words in the News
 
Monday 26 January 2004
 
Bird flu
 
Bird flu The World Health Organisation has said it's taking the rapid spread of a deadly new strain of bird flu, H5N1, very seriously. It has warned there's definitely potential for a serious human outbreak. This follows confirmed outbreaks in Thailand, South Korea, Cambodia, Japan and Vietnam. This report from Jill McGivering:
 
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The list of countries known to have the relatively new and deadly strain of bird flu is rapidly growing. The focus now is on Indonesia where tests will soon confirm whether or not the bird flu which killed several million chickens there is the often fatal H5N1, already confirmed in 5 other countries in the region. Reports of an outbreak in Laos are also being investigated.

A spokesman for the World Health Organisation told the BBC it was clearly spreading, causing serious concern. As new information was emerging, it was becoming clear, he said, the strain had been around in the region much longer than first thought. That multiplied the risk of human infections, he added, and of the virus mutating, perhaps by attaching itself to human flu, and becoming far more deadly. So far seven people have died, six of them in Vietnam, after being infected with the strain.

But so far there's no evidence of direct human to human transmission. Were that to happen, the death rate amongst people could multiply dramatically.

This new strain first appeared in Hong Kong in 1997. Scientists then went on to create a prototype vaccine but that's now become redundant because the virus has since mutated. Between 10 and 20 million chickens across the region have died or been killed in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus.

BBC, Jill McGivering

 
 
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deadly strain
 
a variety of the disease that may be fatal, i.e. cause death
 
an outbreak
 
a sudden occurrence of something, usually unpleasant
 
investigated
 
looked into, examined
 
spreading
 
beginning to affect wider areas
 
multiplied the risk
 
considerably increased the possibility
 
mutating/mutated
 
if an organism mutates, it changes its original genetic make-up and develops new characteristics; for example, if a virus mutates, it may no longer respond to drugs or vaccines in the same way as before
 
transmission
 
here - passing of the virus, infecting
 
a prototype vaccine
 
the first version of the vaccine; a vaccine is a substance which is given to people to prevent them getting the disease
 
redundant
 
here – ineffective and therefore not usable
 
 
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