Avian flu spreading and now a real threat to Europe

This is getting more serious with H5N1, is it a matter of time before it becomes a human-human strain? And what happens if it does?

The first cases of bird flu have been reported in the Chelyabinsk region of Siberia, near the Ural mountains separating Europe from Asia. Scientists don’t yet know whether the deadly H5N1 strain is involved.

Roads were cordoned off and hundreds of chickens slaughtered in Chelyabinsk yesterday to contain the apparent advance of avian flu, first reported in Siberia in July and spreading west via migrating birds.

The H5N1 strain of avian flu has led to the death from infection and culling of tens of millions of birds across South-East Asia. It has also infected 112 people in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia, causing 57 deaths. Russia has not yet experienced any cases of affected human beings.

Scientists are concerned the H5N1 strain could mutate and pass easily between people. Were that to happen, it could potentially trigger a pandemic such as the 1918-19 Spanish flu which killed 20 million to 40 million people.