Human influenza pandemics over the last 100 years have been caused by H1, H2, and H3 subtypes of influenza A viruses. More recently, avian influenza viruses have been found to directly infect humans from their avian hosts. The recent emergence, host expansion, and spread of a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 subtype in Asia has heightened concerns globally, both in regards to mortality of HPAI H5N1 in humans and the potential of a new pandemic. In response, many agencies and organizations have been working collaboratively to develop early detection systems, preparedness plans, and objectives for further research. As a result, there has been a large influx of published information regarding potential risk, surveillance, prevention and control of highly pathogenic avian influenza, particularly in regards to animal to human and subsequent human to human transmission. This chapter will review the current human infections with avian influenza and its public health and medical implications.
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