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J Med Assoc Thai. 2006 Sep;89 Suppl 3:S218-33.

The spread of avian influenza H5N1 virus; a pandemic threat to mankind.

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Center of Excellence in Viral Hepatitis Research, Department ofPediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.


Influenza A H5N1 virus infection presents a major public health problem in Asian and Eurasian countries. The World Health organization has voiced their concerns about a potential pandemic with the imminent threat to humankind. In 1997, an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 virus emerged and caused severe systemic disease among poultry and humans in Hong Kong. This article reviews the magnitude of the 2004-2006 outbreaks in various countries and highlights the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) subtype H5N1 virus as the cause of a major epidemic with potentially vast repercussions on economics, public health and society at large. Not only has this avian influenza (AI) virus infected poultry but has also proven highly pathogenic and fatal to mammalian species including humans and felines. The present review draws a comprehensive picture encompassing epidemiology, inter-species transmission and genetic characterization of this highly virulent virus. Moreover, laboratory diagnostic techniques, vaccination strategies and antiviral therapies aimed at outbreak control and management are also discussed.

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