Which Way Will This Bird Flu Fly?

May 16, 2013

With the emergence of a new zoonotic disease, H7N9, WCS’s Bird Coordinator Steve Zack reflects on the increasing mingling of birds, humans, and domesticated animals across the globe, and the need for improved management practices by poultry farms and markets.

Are you neurotic about all things zoonotic? Perhaps you should be. A new strain of bird flu, H7N9, has recently emerged and has killed more than 30 people in China to date. There are concerns that this flu may mutate into a form that can be transmitted through human-to-human contact, risking its transformation into a pandemic disease. But before we consider that scenario, let's back up a little bit.

Zoonotic diseases are infectious diseases that arise in other animals and infect the human animal. That is to say us. Of the nearly 1,500 pathogens known to infect humans, more than 60 percent are zoonoses. Wild birds are reservoirs of many types of avian flu. The new (new to infecting humans, that is) H7N9 is one of them. The avian flu scare of a few years ago, H5N1, accounted for more than 350 human deaths. It is still around.

Continue reading Zack’s blog post on the Huffington Post >>


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