A terrible specter is haunting the world and it goes by the name H5N1, more commonly called the avian flu virus which cases influenza in birds. This avian flu high pathogenic virus mainly kills birds but has also killed a few dozen people since 2003. That is not the bad news. The bad news is that this virus could mutate after crossing with human flu strains and become highly contagious. If that happens—and some scientists believe that it is an almost certainty—then anywhere between 50 million to half a billion people would die from the pandemic.
Flu pandemics kill periodically. Spanish flu in the 1918-19 killed an estimated 50 million worldwide, for instance. (For a very readable account of flu pandemics, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site.) Continue reading