Five countries still infected with bird flu identified

Fears of 2006's bird flu epidemic have been raised again as five countries have been identified as potentially still being infected with the disease, which poses a global threat to human and animal health.

Sixty-three countries successfully eradicated bird flu, but the disease has recently been found in Egypt, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam and China, according to Juan Lubroth, the UN Food and Agriculture Organizations' chief veterinary officer.

Lubroth said that the presence of the virus in these five countries shows that bird flu should remain a concern worldwide.

Lubroth revealed these findings at an international conference last week in Vietnam, noting that the H1N1 virus currently dominates headlines but that H5N1 - bird flu - remains a severe threat.

To date, 292 humans have died as a result of H5N1 as well as more than 260 million birds. Cost of the economic damage caused by bird flu globally are estimated to be as high as $20 billion.

Bird flu was fist discovered in Hong Kong in 1997, when it was passed from birds to humans during an avian influenza epidemic among poultry.

Several vaccinations exist for H5N1, though the disease is in a continuing state of mutation, rendering the vaccinations limited in their effectiveness. Additionally, "pre-pandemic" vaccines have been created and have shown promise for preparedness in the case of another outb