"Bird Flu" Terminology and Changes to Influenza A Viruses and Related Headings
The phrase "bird flu" has become prevalent in the professional literature and especially in the public print media. Major difficulties with this expression exist, largely because it is ambiguous, and because all influenza A viruses have a host in birds. The expression is not always used consistently by authors: sometimes it (correctly) describes the disease in birds, while other times it refers to a disease and potential pandemic in humans. Therefore the 2006 Medical Subject Headings (MeSH®) have been refined to allow easier and more consistent indexing and search retrieval for this subject area.
The MeSH section has created eight new influenza A virus headings and deleted three older ones. The deleted headings are INFLUENZA A VIRUS, AVIAN; INFLUENZA A VIRUS, HUMAN; and INFLUENZA A VIRUS, PORCINE. The new headings describe the most frequently mentioned viral subtypes.Influenza A virus B04.820.545.405.400
Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype B04.820.545.405.400.214
Influenza A Virus, H2N2 Subtype B04.820.545.405.400.250
Influenza A Virus, H3N2 Subtype B04.820.545.405.400.300
Influenza A Virus, H3N8 Subtype B04.820.545.405.400.350
Influenza A Virus, H5N1 Subtype B04.820.545.405.400.500
Influenza A Virus, H5N2 Subtype B04.820.545.405.400.505
Influenza A Virus, H7N7 Subtype B04.820.545.405.400.700
Influenza A Virus, H9N2 Subtype B04.820.545.405.400.900
Changes have also been made to the corresponding disease headings. INFLUENZA is now called INFLUENZA, HUMAN (entry term = INFLUENZA IN HUMANS) and INFLUENZA, AVIAN is now called INFLUENZA IN BIRDS. Both changes are intended to more explicitly convey the intended meaning of each heading.
If an article on "bird flu in humans" refers to the subtype H5N1 (the subtype that is the current source of much attention, and that is generating speculation of a possible pandemic), the indexing will be:
INFLUENZA, HUMAN + INFLUENZA A VIRUS, H5N1 SUBTYPE + HUMANS
Indexing of articles on "bird flu in birds" with a discussion of the subtype will be similar:
INFLUENZA IN BIRDS + INFLUENZA A VIRUS, H5N1 SUBTYPE + BIRDS (or specifics)
Some articles with "bird flu" in the title include no discussion of a specific virus at all. Such articles are often about the general probability of an upcoming human influenza pandemic and its prevention and control. Indexing for such articles will include:
INFLUENZA, HUMAN + HUMANS (and possibly DISEASE OUTBREAKS
(entry term = PANDEMICS); QUARANTINE; PATIENT ISOLATION; or
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION; if these concepts are substantively discussed).
The 2006 MeSH translation table in PubMed (used to map phrases in search queries to MeSH headings) will map "bird flu" to both INFLUENZA IN BIRDS and INFLUENZA, HUMAN. This practice is common with ambiguous terms.
Searchers may also consider using
bird flu [tiab]
in their strategy to retrieve articles that are about a potential pandemic in humans, but do not include a substantive discussion of a specific virus or the disease in birds.
Savage A. "Bird Flu" Terminology and Changes to Influenza A Viruses and Related Headings. 2005 Nov-Dec; (347):e10.