A recent issue of the New Scientist magazine informs us that the H5N1 avian flu virus is now just five mutations away from being capable of human-to-human transmission. Southern China and neighboring countries, where large numbers of poultry are raised in close proximity to people, are the most likely crucibles for such mutations to occur. Being a particularly unpleasant virus with a 60% human mortality rate, the risks to a country like China are severe, with densely populated metropolises such as Guangzhou and Shanghai and a relatively young population towards whom the virus is most deadly. The world has been lucky so far that H5N1 has not evolved. Will our luck hold? Time, perhaps, to swap the Halloween masks for surgical masks, dust off the pandemic business continuity plans and hope that the Grim Reaper doesn’t come calling….
|This post was part of the special feature about Our Scariest Risks, published October 31, 2011. The feature also included these other risks:|