Monday, February 20, 2006

The Avian Flu and Other Mutating Viruses

The Avian Flu is among a number of viruses that have crossed over from animals to humans recently:

At least one new disease is jumping the species barrier from animals to human beings every year, exposing people to emerging germs at a rate that may be unprecedented.

The first work to catalogue the range of germs capable of infecting people has disclosed that 38 new human pathogens have emerged in the past 25 years. Three quarters of these, including Aids, avian flu, Sars and new variant CJD, originated as animal diseases.

The survey, led by Mark Woolhouse, of the University of Edinburgh, has identified more than 1,400 pathogens that can cause disease in human beings, at least 800 of which crossed the species barrier from animals.

While it is not known whether the rate at which diseases are jumping species is accelerating, Dr Woolhouse said it was impossible that human beings had been exposed to so many new pathogens so quickly through most of history.


Keep an eye on this story as it develops, it could prove crucial in dealing with the Avian Flu if it ever arrives in the states.

Meanwhile, here's an update on the Bird Flu:

Indian health officials went door-to-door Monday searching for people sickened by the deadly bird flu strain, while hundreds of German troops disposed of dead wild birds in a desperate attempt to contain the fast-moving disease in Europe.

In Brussels, Belgium, European Union agriculture ministers discussed ways to combat bird flu --such as by vaccinating poultry-- as the disease spread to half-a-dozen EU nations.

Malaysia announced the deaths of 40 chickens from the lethal H5N1 strain, the first reported cases of the virus in the country in more than a year.

In Hong Kong Tuesday, a dead magpie found near a street flower market was confirmed to have been infected by the H5N1 virus, the government said. It was the latest in a spate of bird deaths from the strain in recent weeks.

With India conducting a mass slaughter of birds for a second day Monday, plumes of black smoke filled the air as farmers burned dead chickens in the now-deserted poultry farms around Navapur, more than 250 miles northeast of Bombay.

Local officials near the affected area reported that a 27-year-old poultry farm owner died of bird flu-like symptoms, though tests had yet to determine the cause of death. Samples from at least eight other people hospitalized for flu-like symptoms near Navapur also were being tested, and results were expected later this week.