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Cell Res. 2010 Jan;20(1):51-61. doi: 10.1038/cr.2009.124. Epub 2009 Nov 3.

H5N1 influenza viruses: outbreaks and biological properties.

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  • 1Department of Pathological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53711, USA.


All known subtypes of influenza A viruses are maintained in wild waterfowl, the natural reservoir of these viruses. Influenza A viruses are isolated from a variety of animal species with varying morbidity and mortality rates. More importantly, influenza A viruses cause respiratory disease in humans with potentially fatal outcome. Local or global outbreaks in humans are typically characterized by excess hospitalizations and deaths. In 1997, highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses of the H5N1 subtype emerged in Hong Kong that transmitted to humans, resulting in the first documented cases of human death by avian influenza virus infection. A new outbreak started in July 2003 in poultry in Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand, and highly pathogenic avian H5N1 influenza viruses have since spread throughout Asia and into Europe and Africa. These viruses continue to infect humans with a high mortality rate and cause worldwide concern of a looming pandemic. Moreover, H5N1 virus outbreaks have had devastating effects on the poultry industries throughout Asia. Since H5N1 virus outbreaks appear to originate from Southern China, we here examine H5N1 influenza viruses in China, with an emphasis on their biological properties.

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