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The bird flu virus could mutate to pass from human to human and trigger a pandemic, latest evidence suggests, according to scientists. Outbreaks so far have been through the flu spreading from animals to humans.

But Nancy Cox, of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, says a number of subtypes have proven their ability to jump the species barrier. The H5N1 strain, which has killed 42 people in Asia since 1997, was one of many possible candidates, she said. The recent spurt of human infections increases the likelihood that a mutant strain would arise that could spread between humans, she added.

"It's impossible to predict what the consequences would be. We might have a relatively mild pandemic like we did in 1968," Dr Cox told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). "Alternatively, we could have a relatively severe pandemic as occurred in 1918 or perhaps even worse."

Source: BBC

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