Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Bird flu has hit 45 countries, killed more than 100 people and seems to be spreading quickly, the U.N. official in charge of tracking the virus said Wednesday.

Dr. David Nabarro said the virus has led to the deaths of some 200 million birds and has impoverished millions of small poultry farmers.

Between 2003 and 2005 the virus was reported in 15 countries. But in the first four months of this year it has moved rapidly to 30 new countries, with major outbreaks in Turkey, Iraq, Israel, Gaza, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar, India, Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Bukina Faso.

"I suspect we're going to see further spread of H5N1 into other countries," he said, referring to the deadly and virulent strain of the virus.

"This is very similar to the virus that caused the influenza pandemic of 1918," Nabarro said. It's not identical but it's similar. ... So therefore, the 1918 virus, which caused this huge pandemic associated with 40 million deaths, seems to have a successor waiting in the wings."