SHREVEPORT, La. - The H5N1 Avian Flu has already killed more than 50 million chickens in the United States alone. But some experts say the worst may yet be to come.
In November, the Avian Flu spread to a mink farm in Spain, leading to the death of 52,000 mink. What alarmed researchers most about this situation is that the disease was transmitted from mink to mink. Prior to this, public health officials had only heard about cases of bird to mammal transmission.
Now that there is a variant capable of mammal to mammal transmission, researchers say the public is now one step closer to having humans be able to contract it and spread it to other humans.
"From a public health perspective, we're watching very closely," said Dr. John Vanchiere, Center for Emerging Viral Threats at LSU Health Shreveport associate director. "From a research perspective, we're beginning to start testing in things like wastewater in the animal population as much as we can and be alert to the possibility this could be our next pandemic in the human population."
The U.S. has a stockpile of vaccines, approved by the Food and Drug Administration, that provide protection from the H5N1 flu. Experts say, however, that the U.S. would need many more if a human outbreak occurred.