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Bird Flu and Beyond: Health News in 2005

I’m Doug Johnson with the VOA Special English Health Report.

We look back this week at some of the top health stories for two thousand five.

Doctors in France made world news with a partial face transplant. But a more important story was the concern about avian influenza.

The h-five-n-one virus appeared in birds in Europe for the first time. Yet the only known human cases were still in East Asia.

The World Health Organization says there have been around one hundred forty confirmed cases since two thousand three. About half the people died.

Most of the victims had touched or been around infected poultry birds, or surfaces with the virus. But the worry is that it could change into a form that spreads easily from person to person.

Several countries are working on vaccines to protect against avian influenza. The effectiveness cannot be known, however, until the virus enters the general population.

If that happens, the drug Tamiflu is the best-known treatment. Yet just last week researchers said resistance to the drug may be more common than experts had thought.

Other health stories in two thousand five involved diseases already well-established. Experts said three million more people died of AIDS-related conditions. Almost five million more became infected. AIDS has killed more than twenty-five million people since nineteen eighty-one.

Treatment efforts have improved. But the United Nations said only one area of the world has not had an increase in the number of H.I.V. cases in the past two years. There was no change in the Caribbean, which is the second hardest-hit area after southern Africa.

Worldwide, an estimated forty million people are now living with the virus that causes AIDS.

Our final story of the year deals with chronic diseases, like heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. Experts say chronic diseases are the major cause of death and disability among adults worldwide.

Thirty-five million people were expected to die from chronic diseases in two thousand five. Health officials say that is two times as many deaths as from infectious diseases, pregnancy-related disorders and nutritional problems combined. Yet they say a better diet, more exercise and less or, better still, no smoking can often reduce the risk of chronic disease.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Cynthia Kirk. Our year in review can be found on the Web at I'm Doug Johnson, wishing you a happy and healthy two thousand six.