Our Opinion: A potential killer

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 3, 2005

As people throughout Suffolk are battling a nasty bug that is the making the rounds, word comes out of Vietnam this week that a 35-year-old man and a 14-year-old girl had tested positive for a potentially lethal bird flu virus known as H5N1, which has been spreading among chickens and other birds in Southeast Asia.

These are the latest cases in what many public health officials worry is the possible beginning of a worldwide outbreak of a deadly new flu. Earlier this week the World Health Organization warned the risk of pandemic poses &uot;the gravest possible danger&uot; to the world.

While Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reassured that we are not on the brink of an avian flu epidemic, experts agree that it is only a matter of time before some new, virulent strain of influenza will threaten the world.

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The virus in Asia has killed millions of birds and infected more than 50 people, killing three out of every four patients, MSN.com reports. Now there is evidence that in rare cases it can spread from person to person.

That is the worry, that the virus will mutate and find in humans, with little or no immunity, an accommodating host.

So much time and media attention is focused these days on the threat of terrorism. But on the heels of the Asian tsunami just over two months ago, few need reminded that nature can unleash forces on humanity far more devastating than anything man can imagine.