10 things you didn't know about bird flu
Dr Michael Greger
4th February, 2009
A dose of flu in winter is as inevitable as a broken boiler – and usually as harmless. But as public health expert Dr Michael Greger explains, intensive farming of animals around the globe may mean we are hatching out an influenza timebomb
1 Their bugs are worse than their bite
The biblical concept of ‘dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of heaven; and every living thing that moved upon the earth’ has populated a veritable Pandora’s Box full of humankind’s greatest killers. Scourges such as smallpox and measles, which have claimed hundreds of millions of lives in recent centuries, were birthed in the barnyard about 10,000 years ago.
Smallpox likely came from camelpox and measles from the rinderpest virus of cattle. Before the domestication of ducks, there was likely no such thing as the human flu or influenza pandemics. Domesticated pigs probably gave us whooping cough, and water buffalo, leprosy. Horses likely gave us the common cold. How often did horses have chance to sneeze into humanity’s collective face until they were broken and bridled? Before then, the common cold was presumably only common to them.
2 All avian influenza viruses start out harmless to both birds and people
All bird flu viruses seem to arise innocuously out of the perpetual, benign reservoir of waterfowl influenza. Though they begin as so-called low pathogenicity...
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