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iayork t1_j7tzlu4 wrote

H5N1 is more versatile than the vast majority of viruses. There are lots of viruses and H5N1 certainly isn't unique, but it is unusual.

H5N1 is among a fairly small number of viruses that have a very clear and obvious potential to cause human outbreaks, and for that reason public health groups have tracked it closely since it emerged in the 1990s.

Many of the other viruses in that category (obvious human pandemic potential) are also influenza viruses (H7N9, various swine influenza viruses), but there are many others - you've probably heard of Ebola, Monkeypox, and Zika, for example, but there are a dozen or two others including Nipah, Marburg, Lassa fever, MERS-CoV, and so on.

(Bat coronaviruses were also on that list since the early 2000s when SARS, and COVID proved the virologists right.)