09/16/2005, 00.00
CHINA
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SARS medical hero warns about bird flu danger

The man who became a national hero for his work three years ago against Sars propaganda, says mutation of the H5N1 virus in human form is possible. "It could mean an absolutely terrible situation".

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A Chinese doctor who shot to fame thanks to his efforts to fight the Sara epidemic has warned that a global outbreak of bird flu could happen "at any time".

 Zhong Nanshan, director of the Guangzhou (Canton) Institute of Respiratory Diseases, said global flu epidemics repeated themselves over a time span ranging from 20 to 50 years and that more than 20 years have passed since the last outbreak. "It's bird flu that makes the current situation so serious," he said.

Dr Zhong became a national hero three years ago when he ranged himself against official propaganda to reveal the true extent of the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak (Sars).

Zhong said bird flu could mutate to the point of becoming capable of transmission among humans, and this would mean an "absolutely terrible" situation. "If a person contracts human flu and bird flu at the same time, it may speed up the mutation of the virus and enable bird flu to spread easily from human to human," he said.

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