Bird flu virus hardier, lives for longer: experts

SINGAPORE - Leading influenza experts urged nations not to lower their guard against the deadly and hardy H5N1 virus, saying it now survives longer in higher temperatures and in wet and moist conditions.

Scientists previously found the virus to be most active and transmissible among birds in the cooler months from October to March in the northern hemisphere, and many people were hoping for some respite in the coming summer months.

But influenza expert Robert Webster warned against complacency and underestimating the virus, which made its first documented jump to humans from birds in 1997 in Hong Kong, killing six people.

"When we tested the virus in Hong Kong from 1997, the virus was killed at 37 degrees Celsius (98 Fahrenheit) in two days. The current H5N1 is still viable for six days at 37," said Webster, from St Jude Children's Research Hospital in the U.S. city Memphis.

"H5N1 at room temperatures can stay (alive) for at least a week in wet conditions," Webster told Reuters on the eve of a bird flu conference organized by the Lancet medical journal in Singapore.

"One of the often overlooked facts about influenza is that it's more heat stable than people realize, especially under moist, damp conditions ... Don't trust it," he said.

Source: Reuters
calendar icon 2 May 2006
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