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Studies Suggest Avian Flu Pandemic Isn't Imminent

March 23, 2006 - Two groups of researchers, in Japan and in Holland, say they have discovered why the avian flu virus is rarely if ever transmitted from one person to another. The reason, the researchers propose, is that the cells bearing the type of receptor the avian virus is known to favor are clustered in the deepest branches of the human respiratory tract, keeping it from spreading by coughs and sneezes. Human flu viruses typically infect cells in the upper respiratory tract. The avian virus would need to accumulate many mutations in its genetic material before it could become a pandemic strain, said Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a virologist at the University of Tokyo and the University of Wisconsin. According to a University of Wisconsin news release approved by Dr. Kawaoka, "The finding suggests that scientists and public health agencies worldwide may have more time to prepare for an eventual pandemic." - NY Times



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