What Keeps Doctors Up at Night

Do you want to know what keeps doctors up at night?

It’s the idea that the bird flu in China mutates to become easily transmissible between people.

Right now, most people who get the bird flu get it from working directly with infected birds. They might also get it from living closely with someone infected. But it’s not yet easy to get from another person. You have to have very close contact.

If that changes, we could be in for quite a shock.

This bird flu is deadly. It kills roughly a third of the people it infects. Now, the rate of death would probably be lower in a country like the U.S. where you can find a higher quality of medical care. But even if the rate of death settles in somewhere around the 20% mark, if the disease spreads rapidly, that will be devastating.

Scientists’ fear of the bird flu virus is growing after this year’s flu season in China. This year, a record number of people contracted this particularly virulent strain of the flu.

Doctors also note the flu strain has mutated, and while the mutation has not lead to the feared human-to-human transmission problem, it has been a setback in terms of what we have at the ready for vaccinations should a pandemic occur.

Daniel Jernigan of the CDC says, “This is a virus you don’t want to take your eyes off.” It’s important to be informed. The official designation for the bird flu is H7N9. Pay attention when you see news stories about it, like this one.