Bird Flu Could Be Slowing Down

The World Organization for Animal Health says that avian influenza could be nearing the end of its natural cycle.

Published on: May 22, 2007

This year, avian influenza has killed fewer wild birds, and the World Organization for Animal Health said Monday that this "could indicate the disease is coming closer to the end of a cycle."

In the first seven months of 2006, 38 countries reported initial infections of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, while only Kuwait, Bangladesh and Ghana reported initial outbreaks in domestic fowl since February of this year.

The drop in outbreaks might indicate that the $2.5 billion international effort to control and eradicate the disease is helping to stem the chances of a pandemic. However, the group says this is no time to let up.

"If we were to say we've won, the war is over, we'd be in a worse mess," says Juan Lubroth of the Food and Agriculture Organization, in a Bloomberg report. "This problem is not going to disappear in one or two years."

"I think we will see this disease diminish, not disappear, but definitely diminish," Lubroth says. He adds that in Indonesia, and possibly Bangladesh and Egypt, the disease may take up to a decade to eradicate.

The H5N1 strain of avian influenza has infected about 306 people in 12 countries since 2003, and about 60% of those cases were fatal.