The bird flu, also known as avian influenza, is an infection caused by avian influenza A. This virus is not the one that causes SARS, an acute respiratory syndrome caused by a Coronavirus. Bird flu can infect many bird species, including domesticated birds such as chickens. In most cases, the disease is mild; however, some subtypes can be pathogenic and rapidly kill birds within 48 hours. Rarely, humans can be infected by these bird viruses. People who get infected with bird flu usually have direct contact with the infected birds or their waste products. Depending on the viral type, the infections can range from mild influenza to severe respiratory problems or death. When this virus (H5N1) infects humans, it is highly pathogenic and although only about 700 people worldwide have been infected, about 10% died. Fortunately, this virus does not seem to be easily passed from person to person. The major concern among scientists and physicians about bird flu is that it will change (mutate) its viral RNA enough to be easily transferred among people and produce a pandemic similar to the one of 1918. There have been several isolated instances where a person has been reported to get avian flu in 2010; most recently in December 2010, the virus was detected in South Korea (three human cases) resulting in a quarantine of two farms.
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