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Volume 39, Number 1, February 2006

Avian influenza — a pandemic waiting to happen?

Jang-Pin Liu
Nuffield Department of Surgery, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford Radcliffe Hospital NHS Trust and Oxford Medical School, Oxford, United Kingdom

Received: September 28, 2005    Revised: September 30, 2005    Accepted: October 4, 2005   


Corresponding author:

Jang-Pin Liu, George Pickering Post-Graduate Centre, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headley Way, Headington, Oxford OX3 9DU, United Kingdom. E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it




Cross-species transmission of a highly pathogenic subtype of influenza A virus directly from birds to humans has raised many concerns. The radical methods of immune evasion and the possibility of human-to-human transmission as a result of gene reassortment between the human and avian viral subtypes pose an imminent threat of a global pandemic. The growing reservoir of circulating influenza among the bird population and the perpetuating human demographic factors promote the emergence of a novel viral strain. This article discusses current methods of identifying and treating the illness in individuals, and outlines principles of public health measures for preventing and containing an influenza pandemic.



Key words:

Disease outbreaks, influenza A virus H5N1 subtype, influenza in birds, reassortant viruses, swine diseases



J Microbiol Immunol Infect 2006;39:4-10.