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Experts have said that the likelihood of a bird flu pandemic depends on the virus mutating into a form that makes it easier to catch through germs in the nose and mouth.

Microbiologists from the Institute of Food Science & Technology in Germany have said that the reason for the comparative difficulty of catching the lethal H5N1 strain lies in the fact that the biological 'receptors' are located deep in the lungs, meaning infection can only happen through close contact with infected birds.

However, it says, a mutated form may be able to link up with receptors in the nose and throat, making transmission far easier.

In such circumstances, wearing face masks which shield the mouth and nose from germs may be an important way of guarding against the spread of the virus, a move the report recommends in the event of a pandemic.

The use of face masks and other breathing equipment were used at a turkey farm in Suffolk last month, where the first major UK outbreak of bird flu took place, the East Anglia Daily Post reported, while students in the US have been wearing masks through the flu season in a trial to assess their reliability in shielding against the infection.

track© Adfero Ltd

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