The sum of all fears was that H5N1 could mutate into a strain with the ability to jump easily from person to person, just like ordinary flu does. That could trigger a once-in-a-century catastrophe, people said.
Avian influenza refers to influenza caused by viruses adapted to birds. 65 outbreaks of the disease were reported worldwide in June 2006 and 55 in June 2007. The situation significantly improved in 2008, with eleven outbreaks being reported in China, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam, according to the World Health Organization.
For some time, health experts had warned of a worldwide bird-flu pandemic that could have killed millions of people and wreck the global economy. Geographically, it was much more dangerous than Ebola is at the moment.
“For Europe bird flu was much more serious than Ebola. As economists we understand the effects of the so-called uncertainty shocks – when people get increasingly uncertain about what’s going to be the future outcome of their economy, what they do is do nothing. Investors stop investments, consumers stop savings unless savings are needed so consumption falls down,” Professor Juan Dolado at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy said.
The H5N1 has been on the radar screen for almost two decades now. As nature keeps dropping hints that the links in a chain of events leading to a deadly pandemic continue to be forged the threat is still growing. Experts say its pathogenicity is gradually continuing to rise in endemic areas. Just recently, the virus was discovered in domesticated birds at a turkey farm in Germany with subsequent outbreaks, while imperfect disease surveillance systems might mean that occurrence of the virus remains underestimated and underreported.