The deadly strain of Avian influenza, the H5N1 strain, has been found in a turkey flock in England, prompting the U.K. to exterminate the birds in an attempt to stop the spread of the bird flu, according to Reuters.
Since 2003, 200 people have died from this strain of the bird flu. The big fear, however, is that it will mutate in such a way that it can be easily passed from human-to-human, rather than just from bird to humans as it is now.
If that were to happen, a worldwide pandemic could result, causing an epic loss of life.
In a conversation with Hearst Magazine editors and writers last week, CDC Director Dr. Julie Louise Gerberding said a flu pandemic is a chief concern.
"There's no question we'll have a pandemic," Gerberding said. The only questions, she said, are "when, where and how bad."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has run military-style preparedness drills to test its response readiness and have been working on ways to amp up vaccine production.
But because influenza vaccines are still made in a slow process that requires the incubating of chicken eggs, many people will be left vulnerable, she said. A hierarchy of vaccination has been determined, with priorities for military personnel and doctors, among others.
"We don't have a modern vaccine yet," Gerberding said. "We're scaling up, but not fast enough to save lives in the first six months."
Further, she said, the H5N1 is only one in a broad range of possible sources of the next pandemic flu outbreak.
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