Human Death Toll from Bird Flu Tops 100

Recreated influenza virions from the 1918 flu that killed an estimated 50 million people. (Image credit: CDC/Terrence Tumpey)

The number of humans confirmed killed by the bird flu strain called H5N1 topped 100 today, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The organization reported five deaths in Azerbaijan. The most deaths, 42, have occurred in Vietnam followed by 22 in Indonesia. [Table]

There have been no confirmed human deaths in the West from the avian flu. Millions of birds in several countries have been slaughtered in mounting efforts to contain the virus. It has nonetheless spread from its roots in Asia to the Middle East, Europe and Africa and could arrive in the United States this year, officials have said.

Most of the human cases have involved people who've directly handled infected birds. It is not yet clear if that's the case in Azerbaijan.

"Interviews with surviving family members have failed to uncover a history of direct exposure to dead or diseased poultry for several of the cases," a WHO statement read. The investigation is ongoing.

Officials worry, however, that the H5N1 strain could morph into a variety that would spread among humans, leading to a global pandemic.

Cases of the H5N1 avian flu virus in humans and the deaths that have resulted, as of March 21, 2006:


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Live Science Staff
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