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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Aug 15;97(17):9654-8.

Avian-to-human transmission of H9N2 subtype influenza A viruses: relationship between H9N2 and H5N1 human isolates.

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Division of Virology, National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London, United Kingdom. Dise.


In 1997, 18 cases of influenza in Hong Kong (bird flu) caused by a novel H5N1 (chicken) virus resulted in the deaths of six individuals and once again raised the specter of a potentially devastating influenza pandemic. Slaughter of the poultry in the live bird markets removed the source of infection and no further human cases of H5N1 infection have occurred. In March 1999, however, a new pandemic threat appeared when influenza A H9N2 viruses infected two children in Hong Kong. These two virus isolates are similar to an H9N2 virus isolated from a quail in Hong Kong in late 1997. Although differing in their surface hemagglutinin and neuraminidase components, a notable feature of these H9N2 viruses is that the six genes encoding the internal components of the virus are similar to those of the 1997 H5N1 human and avian isolates. This common feature emphasizes the apparent propensity of avian viruses with this genetic complement to infect humans and highlights the potential for the emergence of a novel human pathogen.

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