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(From Guardian Unlimited)
What is avian flu?
Avian influenza, also known as bird flu, is a contagious viral disease in animals, caused by a virus loosely related to human influenza. While all bird species and - less commonly - pigs are thought to be susceptible, domestic poultry flocks are especially vulnerable to infection, which can rapidly result in epidemics among their populations. Since bird flu was first recognised, in Italy, a century ago, there have been more than a dozen strains of the virus. Some are almost harmless, while others result in death within hours. The H5N1 form of bird flu is the most dangerous. It is highly pathogenic and extremely contagious among birds, both by air and contact with faeces. Mortality is close to 100%, with many birds dying on the same day they were infected.
Which countries have been affected?
The latest bird flu outbreak, which started in 2003, has mostly affected Asia, where millions of birds have died after contracting the disease, or have been destroyed in measures to prevent it spreading. As of May 19 2006, H5N1 cases in animals have been recorded in 50 countries, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health . These countries are: Afghanistan, Albania, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burma, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Kazakhstan, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Jordan, …