[Is avian influenza a risk for humans?].Dtsch Med Wochenschr 2005; 130(15):946-8DM
Avian influenza is an infectious disease of birds, caused by type A strains of the influenza virus. The disease, which was first identified in Italy more than 100 years ago, occurs worldwide. Avian influenza viruses are mainly distributed by migratory birds. Different mammals like swine, horse and finally humans are susceptible for avian influenza viruses. The high possibility of genomic changes like gene shift and drift is caused by the segmented RNA genome. During the avian flu outbreak in East Asia at the end of 2003 the virus also killed several humans in Vietnam and Thailand. That avian influenza could also infect humans has been known since 1997. The H5N1 flu outbreak seemed successfully controlled, but currently new cases in poultry and humans in Vietnam, Thailand, China and Indonesia are recognized. Also another avian influenza A strain type H9N2 was prevalent in chickens of local markets in Hong Kong. Because of the natural virus reservoir like wild and/ or domesticated ducks and others, actually there is little chance of eradicating avian influenza. Furthermore the virus could mutate and jump to humans with the threat of a global influenza pandemic.