On May 6, 2013, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the current strain of bird flu that is causing illness and deaths in China cannot spark a pandemic in its current form – but he added that there is no guarantee it will not mutate and cause a serious pandemic.
In an exclusive interview at the Reuters Health Summit in New York, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said more than 2,000 people have been in contact with infected individuals, and only a handful have become ill.
Virtually all of the rest have had direct contact with poultry, the identified cause of the virus.
“This particular virus is not going to cause a pandemic because it doesn’t spread person-to-person,” Frieden said. “But all it takes is a bit of mutation for it to be able to go person-to-person. I cannot say with certainty whether that will happen tomorrow, within 10 years or never.”
The new strain of bird flu known as H7N9, which began infecting people in February, has so far sickened at least 127 people and killed 27. According to the latest CDC estimates, the flu kills about 20 percent of the people it infects.
The United States has been working closely with Chinese health officials, and has recently distributed flu test kits to detect this new strain of flu, which has never before appeared in humans.
Content adapted from Reuters.