Contagion

Yes, I did watch the movie this weekend and as my friend pointed out, it was strangely gratifying to watch Gwyneth Paltrow die. But it did make me think about the avian flu, which just two years ago, completed most of the necessary mutation stages just short of a full-blown pandemic. Looks like we might have crossed into the final stage, if these two Chinese victims really had nothing to do with birds:

BEIJING — A man died in southern China on Sunday from the H5N1 bird flu virus, the Health Ministry reported. It was China’s second such death in less than a month.

The latest victim, an unidentified 39-year-old, fell ill on Jan. 6 and was admitted to a hospital in Guizhou Province the same day, the Health Ministry said in a statement reported by Xinhua, the official news agency.

A 39-year-old bus driver in Shenzhen, a city in Guangdong Province near Hong Kong, died of the disease on Dec. 31.

Both deaths were notable because neither victim reported any contact with birds in the month preceding his illness. The virus is known to spread through contact with infected birds, eggs or bird feces, but experts said a pandemic could occur were it to mutate into a form that was more easily spread.

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