The potential for avian influenza (bird flu) to become a global pandemic (major world-wide flu outbreak) is being taken very seriously by most governments, medical experts, and the World Health Organization. Prior pandemics in 1918-1919 (20 to 40 million deaths), 1957-1958 (2 million deaths), and 1968-1969 (1 million deaths) only serve to reinforce the need for such concern.
In fact, with travel being faster and more extensive than at any other time in history, the threat to a much more densely populated earth could be quite serious. While relatively few people have died up to this point from bird flu, once the disease is capable of being transferred from human to human on a wide scale, a world-wide health crisis will exist. Many experts believe that the next pandemic is overdue. As of this week, there have been contained outbreaks of bird flu in a number of Asian countries resulting in millions of chickens and other birds being destroyed.
A number of human cases of the disease have been reported but, to date, no outbreak has occurred. Since January 2004, approximately 90 people have been infected with 53 deaths.