Martin’s Musings: Emergence

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Bird flu basics

Bird flu basics: “Posted by Taraneh Razavi, M.D., Staff Doctor

As flu season approaches, there’s been a lot of talk about bird flu. I thought I’d try to clarify some of the issues and misconceptions around this illness. I keep up with news on this and other emerging diseases in a number of ways, including Pro-MED, which is produced by the Federation of American Scientists, and the World Health Organization site. You can also read lots more at the CDC site, especially here.

Bird (avian) flu is an influenza virus type A that normally infects birds, but can also infect pigs and other animals. Wild birds, the natural hosts, normally don’t get sick from this virus, but domestic animals such as chickens and turkeys can be severely affected severely. Humans, meanwhile, can be infected with influenza types A, B, and C.

Genetic changes and sharing (the closest thing viruses have to sex) can occur under certain circumstances such as in crowded conditions where poultry, pigs, and people live in close quarters. This change can allow a virus to become much more infectious to humans and more easily transmitted from person to person. And this is where a ‘pandemic’ comes in: it’s a worldwide outbreak of a new influenza A virus between humans, while epidemics tend to be seasonal, involving viruses that already exist.

For you history buffs, previous pa”

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October 12, 2005 - Posted by | Random Thoughts

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