Experts say risk of a bird-flu pandemic has lessened

The world is safe from a bird-flu pandemic. Maybe. Last week, researchers said they’d isolated the mutations that could turn the virus into a human-to-human juggernaut, while another team unveiled an “MChip” test that identifies the distinctive flu strain, which has caused 153 human deaths since 2003. Experts agree the situation looks less beak — uh, bleak — than before. Alan Hay of the World Influenza Center: “Things have been quiet for the last six months in most parts of the world.” Professor John Horvath, Australia’s chief medical officer: “It may be that the world has already averted a pandemic by the actions it has taken in response to [the virus].” Aussie immunologist Peter Doherty: “Even if we duck [Ed. note: ha!] the bullet this time, the effort and resources expended here will have ensured that our capacity to deal with an unexpected invader is enhanced.” But don’t relax yet, says Hay: “We don’t know what’s smoldering away in some part of the world we can’t keep our eye on.”