BOSTON—News media are full of scary headlines about the H5N1 bird flu virus and the possibility that it might spread among the human population. Yet researchers note that no human flu pandemic has ever involved a flu virus of the H5 subtype. On the other hand, the H5N1 virus has already jumped from birds to pigs and cats, as well as infecting some people, suggesting it might have the capacity to develop into a flu that passes directly from one human to another. So should we be afraid—or cynical?
Neither, says the June issue of the Harvard Health Letter. No one knows for sure if H5N1 is going to explode or fizzle, or whether a different flu virus with greater pandemic potential might be out there.
Whether the H5N1 virus will "make the jump" and spread among humans is uncertain, but here are some tips you can take now to protect yourself just in case:
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