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Bird flu study findings released

25 June 2012 11:05

Scientists have released the findings of a study of the H5N1 bird flu virus.

Scientists have released the findings of a study of the H5N1 bird flu virus.

A controversial study into the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus has finally discovered the route it takes to reach pandemic stage.

Scientists studied the virus in a lab and found that it only needed five mutations before it became airborne.

The release in Science magazine follows eight months of discussions with biosecurity experts on how much information should be released to the public. Those travelling would be wise to ensure their medical travel insurance provides cover in the event of contracting an infectious virus.

The H5N1 virus cannot currently spread between people, but scientists, who infected ferrets to mimic the virus in humans, set out to discover the kind of changes that would make it catchable through coughs and sneezes releasing it into the air.

The team, led by Ron Fouchier, professor of molecular virology in the department of virology at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, altered the genetics of the virus and found that it spread among the ferrets through physical contact and underwent five mutations before it became transmissable via the tiny droplets that are the result of sneezes and coughs.