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Germany

The Westward Migration of Bird Flu

It is the scenario that European officials and health experts were dreading: avian -- or bird -- flu is on Europe’s doorsteps and forecasts are doom-laden. Scientists believe that, in respect to a European outbreak of the disease, it is a case of when not if. While such an outbreak would result in the culling of thousands of birds, the biggest fear is that it would begin to claim human lives across Europe.

Bird flu has infected 119 people since the first case was detected in Hong Kong in 1997 and tens of millions of birds have been killed by the disease. It is highly lethal: half of all the humans infected have died, some within 48 hours of the first symptoms.

While the virus moves easily between birds, there have only been two suspected cases of human-to-human transmission. All the other human victims have caught it from direct contact with birds. However, experts believe the deadly H5N1 strain -- discovered most recently in Romania and Turkey -- could mutate to become as infectious as the common flu.

As Europe becomes the next region to grapple with the complexities and realities of this current threat, DW-WORLD looks at bird flu’s migration to the borders of Europe and the efforts to avoid a global health emergency.

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