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Below is a roundup of the key developments on the spread of the bird flu virus (H5N1) and the threat it poses to human health. Each title is a link to the full article.

Click here to see the latest World Health Organization (WHO) figures of confirmed human cases.

4–7 January 2008

Human and bird flu viruses bind differently
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States have discovered a key difference in the way that human and bird flu viruses bind to the host's cells (source: Agence France Presse).

Universal flu vaccine 'available by 2011'
A vaccine to protect against all strains of influenza, including bird flu, could be available before 2011, according to a UK biotech company. Acambis, based in Cambridge, reported two early-stage trials and say the vaccine could be ready within three years (source: The Daily Telegraph).

28 December 2007 – 4 January 2008

Four Egyptian bird flu deaths in one week
The Egyptian health ministry announced that a 50-year-old woman from Damietta north of Cairo has died from H5N1 bird flu. It is the country's nineteenth bird flu death and the fourth in a week. The WHO had earlier confirmed the presence of the virus in a 36-year-old woman from Menufia in the Nile Delta region who died on the same day, and a 25-year-old woman from Daqahliya, also in the Nile Delta, who died the day before. Earlier in the week a 25-year-old woman from the town of Beni Soweif, south of Cairo, died of the disease. (sources: Agence France Presse, Reuters, International Herald Tribune).

First case of human-to-human transmission in Pakistan
The WHO has confirmed a case of human-to-human transmission of the H5N1 virus in a family in Pakistan. The confirmation follows the death of a man in the Peshawar region of Pakistan (source: Reuters).

20–27 December 2007

Bird flu kills four-year-old Vietnamese boy
The H5N1 virus was responsible for the death of a four-year old boy in northern Vietnam, the health ministry has announced. The WHO has confirmed the death, the country's first human case of bird flu in nearly five months (source: Reuters).

Latest death brings Indonesian bird flu toll to 94
A 24-year-old Indonesian woman from West Jakarta has died from bird flu, the country's ninety-fourth victim. Health ministry officials said laboratory tests confirmed she was infected by the H5N1 virus and the WHO have confirmed the case (source: Xinhua).

China bird flu vaccine also looks promising
China has announced that its human-use bird flu vaccine is "safe" and "effective" following phase II clinical tests. The vaccine was jointly developed by Sinovac Biotech, the first institute in the world to develop a SARS vaccine, and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (source: Xinhua).

12–19 December 2007

Indonesian man dies from H5N1 virus
A 47-year-old Indonesian man from East Jakarta has died of bird flu, bringing the country's death toll to 93. The WHO have confirmed the case (source: Xinhua)

WHO confirms Myanmar's first human case of bird flu
The WHO has confirmed Myanmar's first human case of bird flu in a seven year-old girl who survived the disease (source: Reuters).

4–11 December 2007

Bird flu kills Indonesian woman
A 28-year-old Indonesian woman from Tangerang, in the Banten province, has died of bird flu. The WHO has confirmed the case (source: Sydney Morning Herald).

India pledges US$2 million to global bird flu response
India has pledged US$2 million in response to the threat of bird flu, its first donation to the cause. Global donors pledged a total of US$406.1 million at the New Delhi International Ministerial Conference on Avian and Pandemic Influenza (source: The Hindu).

Countries 'ill prepared' as bird flu risk continues
The risk of a global influenza pandemic has not decreased since mid-2005, when the first cases emerged, warns a UN report.

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