According to the Russian Agriculture Ministry, the Moscow bird flu outbreak was traced to a market southwest of the city. The market is now closed, the Ministry told AP, while scientists try to find out where the four dead birds came from.

Although H5N1 is suspected, further laboratory tests need to confirm this. It will be the first H5N1 bird flu outbreak in the Moscow area if tests results come back positive. Whether of not H5N1 has been confirmed is slightly confusing at the moment – some officials say tests have come back positive while others deny this. While a Ministry spokesman, Alexei Alexeyenko, has confirmed H5N1 was present in two places, Valery Sitnikox, Moscow’s Chief Veterinary Inspector, say we won’t know about the lab test results until Monday, February 19th.

Valery Sitnikox said authorities in the central Moscow region have implemented all measures to stem the spread of bird flu. “The situation is under control – the veterinary service is in control of everything. Measures to vaccinate birds will begin tomorrow.” He added that current measures will make sure further outbreaks can be prevented. He is extremely hopeful that the current chain of events have been stopped – the market where the infected birds were brought to has been shut down.

Nobody knows where the infected birds came from. Authorities stressed that this outbreak poses no threat to human health.

Scientists fear that the H5N1 bird flu virus strain, the most virulent one, will eventually mutate and become easily human transmissible. This has not happened yet. It is extremely difficult for birds to infect humans, and even harder for a human to infect another human.

It is believed that one of the ways H5N1 could mutate would be by infecting a person who is sick with the normal human flu virus. The bird flu virus would then have the opportunity to exchange genetic information with the bird flu virus and acquire its ability to spread easily from human-to-human (become easily human transmissible). If this happened, we could be facing a serious, global flu pandemic.

If we can keep the number of outbreaks among birds down to a minimum, then the number of humans becoming infected is also low – giving the bird flu virus fewer opportunities to mutate.

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today