Avian and human flu viruses combining

Avian and human flu viruses combining

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Credit: RUSSELL KIGHTLEY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

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Caption: Avian and human flu viruses combining. Computer artwork of avian influenza virus particles (green and light blue, H5N1 strain) and human influenza virus particles (dark blue and pink). If these infect a cell at the same time, they may combine (mixing their genetic information) to produce a new flu virus strain (red and yellow). This new virus might be able to spread from human to human, unlike the avian flu virus. There would be no resistance to this new strain, and a deadly pandemic would result. The H5N1 strain was first found in humans in South-East Asia in 1997. Swans, seen in background, are an example of wild birds that can carry the H5N1 strain.

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