Harvard Health Letter

Bird flu: Don't fly into a panic

Whether the H5N1 virus will "make the jump" and spread among humans is uncertain, but here are some tips to protect yourself.

It's a confusing world. While the H5N1 bird flu virus spread across Europe and Congress set aside billions for flu research and prevention, skeptical voices emerged.

One researcher noted that no H5 subtype (the H stands for hemagglutinin, the surface protein that a flu virus uses to bind to host cells) has ever caused a flu pandemic. Others said that even if H5N1 did mutate so that it could spread easily from person to person — a prerequisite for any major epidemic — the resulting virus would be weak and unlikely to cause serious illness.

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