The death of a 26-year-old Bangkok woman on Sept. 20 is raising fears that deadly avian flu may be "learning" how to spread among people -- a step towards a potentially devastating epidemic. A total of 30 people have now died from so-called bird flu in Thailand and Vietnam, but until now, World Health Organization officials concluded that victims contracted the disease through direct contact with infected poultry. The WHO believes the Thai woman may have gotten the virus from her daughter, who also died. Scientists are hoping that the case is a rare event and not evidence of a new, more transmissible strain of avian flu. What everyone is concerned about, says a WHO spokesman, is that the bird virus will mix with genes from the human flu virus "and ignite a pandemic." Asian nations have killed millions of chickens to stop the virus, but with limited success so far.
EDITED BY Edited by Chris Power