The New Age of Pandemics
Teen in 2005 Had Swine Flu, Recovered, but was Part of the 'Evolutionary Tree' That Led to Virus in 2009
Humans are Reshaping the World Ecology, 'Offering Germs Like the Influenza Virus Extraordinary New Opportunities to Evolve, Mutate and Spread,' Writes Laurie Garrett
NEW YORK, May 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Around Thanksgiving 2005 a teenage boy helped his brother-in-law butcher 31 pigs at a local Wisconsin slaughterhouse, and a week later the 17-year-old pinned down another pig while it was gutted. In the lead-up to the holidays the boy's family bought a chicken and kept the animal in their home, out of the harsh Sheboygan autumn. Then on Dec. 7, the teenager came down with the flu, suffering an illness that lasted three days. He visited a local clinic, then fully recovered, and nobody else in his family took ill.
As Newsweek contributor Laurie Garrett writes in the May 11-18 Newsweek cover "Fear & The Flu" (on newsstands Monday, May 4), this incident would hardly seem worth mentioning except that the influenza virus that infected the Wisconsin lad was unlike any previously seen. It appeared to be a mosaic of a wild-bird form of flu, a human type and a strain found in pigs. It was an H1N1 swine influenza. Largely ignored at the time, the Wisconsin virus was a step along the evolutionary tree, leading to a virus that four years later would stun the world.
Garrett, the senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, explains how the virus spread from pigs and birds to humans around the globe. And why microbes like the H1N1 flu have become a growing threat. "We live in a globalized world, filled with shared microbial threats that arise in one place, are amplified somewhere else through human activities that aid and abet the germs, and then traverse vast geographic terrains in days, even hours--again, thanks to human activities and movements. If there is blame to be meted, it should be directed at the species Homo sapiens and the manifest ways in which we are reshaping the world ecology, offering germs like the influenza virus extraordinary new opportunities to evolve, mutate and spread."
(Read story at www.Newsweek.com)
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