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Bird flu is last year's story—but the threat remains. Criticising the Iraq war can get your US government security clearance revoked. Plus, life on Mars update

By Philip Ball   August 2008

But bird flu is so last year

As scare stories go, bird flu seems very last year. But the threat hasn’t gone away. A human pandemic from the virus H5N1 is still possible, and one recent study put the likely death toll at around 60m, slightly more than current total annual global mortality. Nearly all of these deaths would be in developing countries.

H5N1 is a strain of the H5 influenza virus, of which a human form exists—along with a vaccine. So in principle, an outbreak might be stymied by a rapid programme of anti-H5 vaccination. But these vaccines need…

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