There is both good news and bad news on bird flu.
It turns out that the reason bird flu in the current
mutation doesnt spread easily to or between people is because it is a deep
lung infection in humans, whereas it infects the upper respiratory system in
Actually that doesnt say anything about the probability of
it mutating to something which spreads easily between humans, but it does show
what mechanism needs to change and the reason it is so deadly in humans.
That does expose a glimmer of hope that if and when it does
mutate to an easily spread upper respiratory infection in humans and DOESNT retain
the ability to cause a deep lung infection, it may be considerably less deadly
than the current 50% mortality rate in humans.
(Small comfort perhaps since the 1917-1918 pandemic was
devastating with only a 5% mortality rate.)
The BAD news this week is that it has been confirmed that
there are now two strains of H5N1. The older one from 2002-2003 (clade 1) which
people pointed to as evidence that it was unlikely to mutate to a human form
since it had been around quite a while, and the new one (clade 2) which
apparently only appeared about 9 months ago and has been responsible for most
Meanwhile, it has spread to
Of course the biggest threat to business may simply be the
panic which could ensue this fall and winter when people start coming down with
the regular flu and everyone panics, begins to hoard food (as Homeland Security
and other agencies already recommend but they call it stockpiling or
preparedness) and starts calling in sick just to avoid the chance of catching
This threat poses major economic consequences even if there
is never a single case of bird flu in the U.S.