Scientists now believe that the bird flu is killing people more slowly. Do you think that is good news? It's not. In fact, scientists fear that by not killing people as quickly, the bird flu has a much better chance of becoming a pandemic that will kill millions because it gives the disease more time to spread before killing the host.
These days the topic of a potential bird flu pandemic is mainstream news. One major U.K. newspaper says that the recent outbreak of new human bird flu cases suggests that the danger of a pandemic is rising:
First the good news: bird flu is becoming less deadly. Now the bad: scientists fear that this is the very thing that could make the virus more able to cause a pandemic that would kill hundreds of millions of people.
Did you get that last part?
Hundreds of millions of people.
In fact, last year the U.K. government identified the bird flu as the biggest single threat facing the nation. The U.K. government's own estimate states that the bird flu has the potential to kill up to 750,000 U.K. citizens.
Some of the most troubling bird flu news has come out of Egypt recently. Three more human bird flu cases were reported there just last week. What is strange is that almost all of the recent cases there have been in children under the age of three.
The frightening thing is that these infections have been less deadly than usual. Normally the bird flu quickly kills over 50 percent of those infected. But every one of the Egyptians infected in 2009 are still alive.
That may sound like good news, but it is not. Victims that don't die or that die slowly are likely to spread the disease to many others. This could lead to a much, much higher death toll.
In fact, studies show that a potential bird flu pandemic that killed even 5 percent of those it infected could still cause hundreds of millions of deaths across the globe.