In the last few months, scientists have begun to believe that the inaccuracy of laboratory tests, the wide variation of symptoms and the inability of public health agencies to combat the disease may have created the erroneous perception that bird flu is still rare among humans.
The number of infections is key. The more there are, the greater the chance the virus will mutate into a form that can easily be passed between people, who would have little immunity to the new disease. Scientists believe that nearly all infections so far have been caused by contact with sick or dead poultry.
There may be a cure on the way, though -
Researchers at Seoul National University said chickens infected with the deadly bird flu virus began recovering a week after they were fed with fermented bacilli extracted from kimchi.
The experiment has yet to be scientifically proven but professor Kang Sa-Ouk said kimchi did appear to have a curative effect.
Kimchi, made by fermenting cabbage with radishes, red peppers, garlic and ginger, is a symbol of national cuisine.
"Our research showed the chickens fed with a cultured fluid of fermented bacilli extracted from kimchi were recovering rapidly from bird flu and other diseases," Kang said.