(NaturalNews) Health officials are warning that the bird flu pandemic is far from over, contrary to the impression created by many in the media. In fact, more people died from the virus in 2006 that in the previous two years, and its fatality rate has risen from 43 to 61 percent.
• Bird flu, or H5N1, is a variety of the influenza virus that primarily infects domestic and wild birds. While unusually lethal, it is currently not very contagious and usually spreads to humans only through close contact with infected birds.
• Health officials fear that the virus could mutate into a form that is highly contagious from human to human. This could create a severe global health crisis: By comparison, the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic - which killed between 50 and 100 million people - had only a 2 percent fatality rate.
• In 2005, the bird flu virus was considered to be "out of control" in bird populations in Indonesia. It is now considered out of control in Nigeria and Egypt as well.
• Circumstantial evidence suggests that human-to-human transmission may have recently taken place in Nigeria, where a 22-year-old woman died from the virus in January. Despite government controls, bird flu is found in 19 of the country's 36 states, and culling orders are being ignored. Farmers attribute this to the low compensation the government is offering for their birds.
• Compared with last winter, few migrating birds carried the virus this year. The primary cause of its spread now seems to be illegal or unregulated domestic bird trade.
• Quote: "My take-home message is 'don't become complacent'. Don't trust this one." - Robert Webster, virologist at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis
• Contrary to what many people may think, the threat from avian influenza hasn't passed and instead has been uncontrollably spreading. The bird flu's reach has now extended to include recent cases in the U.K. and Russia.
• The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control haven't been able to control the spread of the bird flu virus. Existing vaccines are ineffective, and the virus could mutate to an even more dangerous human form.
• If the bird flu becomes a pandemic, public health resources will be overrun, and even basic medical care may be hard to come by. People who wish to be safe during a pandemic need to take preparedness measures.