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Bird Flu

April 28, 2013

So last night I hung out with some friends and played the game Pandemic – which is awesome by the way – and it got me thinking about how scary viruses really are. In today’s world, travelers fly to all corners of the globe every single day. If a virus happens to hit the mutation lottery and becomes highly infections to humans, we are going to have a really hard time trying to contain it.

So I started reading about bird flu this morning – specifically the H7N9 flavor that has been spreading through China over the last month. The first case was confirmed on March 31st, and already we have at least 109 confirmed cases and 23 deaths… that’s a 21% death rate. The weird thing about this flu is that it’s not all that pathogenic in the birds that it infects (namely poultry), so it’s hard to track in the environment. Then it jumps over into a human host and WHAMMY – you’re uber sick.

angry chicken copy

Thankfully there have been no reported cases of human-to-human transmission yet, and the World Health Organization thinks it’s unlikely that H7N9 will become a full blown pandemic. So the current goals are to cull the bird populations in infected areas in an attempt to limit it’s spread (a challenging objective considering they can’t tell which birds are sick) and to sequence the viral genome. This will allow scientists to find weaknesses and will help us with infection detection (lol rhymes) and vaccine development. HURRAY FOR SCIENTISTS! 😀

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From → Biology

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