Sunday, December 11, 2016

Kill the birds!! (again) (Dutch style)

Resuters reports:  "Dutch destroy 190,000 ducks in first bird flu cull"

Whenever flu breaks out, bids get slaughtered.  While this news article may seem unique, these practices have contained outbreaks for decades.  The term “bird flu” gets thrown around a lot, but what exactly is bird flu?  Why are we so scared of avian-based flus?

What we commonly refer to as “bird flu”, is actually a strain of influenza A virus, and birds are the natural reservoir for influenza A.   Influenza A is divided into two subtypes based on two specific proteins on the surface of the virus, hemagglutinin (HA), and neuraminidase (NA), with 18 known HA subtypes and 11 known NA subtypes.  The different combinations of HA and NA make the influenza A strains, thus the infamous H5N1 virus designates influenza A with HA protein 5 and NA protein 1.  Birds show no symptoms for, and are the reservoir for influenza A, and when a virus is able to cross into the human population–we’ve got a problem.

We are scared of bird flus because they are historically incredibly pathogenic, meaning they are extremely likely to cause devastating diseases.  For example, the H1N1 virus was responsible for the 1918-1919 flu pandemic that killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, infected 500 million, and considering the world’s population was a mere 1.8 billion–this virus was devastating.  Thus, whenever we detect a H–N– strain in birds we kill them all, before their viruses kill us all.

-Cynthia Taylor

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