Imperial in the news: bird flu is back

Professor Wendy Barclay (right) has spoken a lot about recent bird flu research and outbreaks

A recent outbreak of what is suspected to be a virulent strain of bird flu has appeared in China over the past few weeks, claiming the lives of at least 20 people it has been reported.

However, unlike previous strains of the virus which first came to wider attention in 2003 and has claimed over 500 lives worldwide, this new outbreak appears to have been found in some people who may not have had contact with birds.

Professor Wendy Barclay [Medicine] has been studying the disease and told Reuters: “The incubation time might be quite long, so visiting a market even 14 days before might have resulted in infection. We can’t rule out that this … has passed through poultry but then been reintroduced to a wild bird population from which some spread to humans might be occurring.”

In January 2012, researchers in the US and the Netherlands developed a strain of H5N1 bird flu that was potentially infectious in humans.

Last month Professor Barclay and her team announced new findings pinpointing genetic mutations that could make the H5N1 virus more easily transmissible between mammals.

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