Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, working independently, have found a way to genetically engineer H5N1, the avian bird flu, to make it highly contagious to humans. Ron Fouchier, the Dutch scientist, created the virus in a lab and then infected ferrets, which transmit diseases to each other similar to the way humans do. (A ferret infected with the virus could cause another ferret housed in the same cage to get sick simply by being nearby.)
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