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What is special about the current outbreaks in poultry?

What is special about the current outbreaks in poultry?

The current outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza, which began in Southeast Asia in mid-2003, are the largest and most severe on record. Never before in the history of this disease have so many countries been simultaneously affected, resulting in the loss of so many birds.

The causative agent, the H5N1 virus, has proved to be especially tenacious. Despite the death or destruction of an estimated 150 million birds, the virus is now considered endemic in many parts of Indonesia and Vietnam and in some parts of Cambodia, China, Thailand, and possibly also the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Control of the disease in poultry is expected to take several years.

The H5N1 virus is also of particular concern for human health, as explained below.