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UCLA scientists find H1N1 flu virus prevalent in animals in Africa
Date:9/23/2011

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Nasal swabs can detect a current infection, and blood samples reveal past exposure to a virus. Because an active infection lasts only about five days, "we have to be lucky to get an active infection in the field, but evidence of the infection stays in the blood."

In the village in northern Cameroon, Njabo found two pigs with active H1N1 infections, and virtually every other pig had evidence of a past infection in its blood.

"The pigs got H1N1 from humans," Njabo said. "The fact that pigs in Africa are infected with the H1N1 flu virus illustrates the remarkable interconnectedness of the modern world with respect to diseases. The H1N1 virus that we found in livestock in Cameroon is virtually identical to a virus found in people in San Diego just a year earlier, providing an astonishing example of how quickly the flu can spread all over the globe.

"The discovery of H1N1 in African swine is also important because it shows how farming practices can trigger disease outbreaks and suggests opportunities for improving human and livestock health. Our studies indicate that H1N1 infections are more common in swine that wander freely in villages than in animals that are confined to farms."

The biologists used a diagnostic test called ELISA enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to test for potential viruses. ELISA revealed the pigs had the human strain of H1N1.

Viruses in pigs can mix into a much more virulent strain that can spread extremely fast, Smith and Njabo warned.

"We are studying the interface between viruses in humans, wild animals and domestic animals and how viruses move among them," Njabo said.

A pandemic as in 'Contagion' could occur

"This particular H1N1 strain is ubiquitous," said Smith, who is also a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and a member of UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. "When different strains of influenza are mi
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Contact: Stuart Wolpert
swolpert@support.ucla.edu
310-206-0511
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert  

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UCLA scientists find H1N1 flu virus prevalent in animals in Africa
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