In Vietnam, Experts Study Bird Flu Risk

Saturday, June 25, 2005

HANOI, June 24 -- A team of international experts is in Vietnam studying whether the H5N1 bird flu virus could be evolving into a form that might trigger a human pandemic, the World Health Organization said Friday.

The team of virologists and epidemiologists was looking at "the possibility of more widespread H5N1 human transmission, changes in the H5N1 virus and the likelihood of increased human-to-human transmission," WHO said in a statement.

"What has happened in Vietnam may have public health implications for the entire world and will be crucial in preparing for a possible pandemic," Hans Troedsson, WHO representative in Vietnam, was quoted as saying in the statement.

WHO officials in Hanoi were not immediately available for comment about details of the study in a country where the virus has killed 38 people.

Scientists have been tracking the evolution of the H5N1 virus, which is infectious in birds but does not spread easily among humans. Health experts fear the disease could mutate into a form that does spread easily among people, unleashing a pandemic.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company