A 59-year-old woman in Hong Kong has tested positive for H5N1 bird flu, the most recent genetic variant of a severe flu strain that has afflicted parts of Asia as early as 2006.
The woman is in serious condition in a local hospital.
The government responded to the outbreak by issuing a "serious" bird flu alert. Local government officials are meeting to develop a plan to safeguard the population.
Bird flu is unique in that a significant percentage of those who contract the disease, particularly the elderly, infants and those afflicted with chronic conditions, die as a result of the infection. Reported mortality rates for outbreaks range from 29 percent to 100 percent, depending on available treatment.
Several vaccines are available to inoculate against bird flu, but scientists are concerned that the virus may mutate rapidly to create a variant that is resistant to the vaccines.
The only known treatment for those infected is oseltamivir (marketed by Roche as 'Tamiflu'), which can help minimize the spread of the virus once it enters the body.
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