SARS, avian flu, swine flu ... each virus outbreak raises the question: What can be done? A compelling answer from virus hunter Nathan Wolfe, who's outwitting the next pandemic by staying two steps ahead: discovering new, deadly viruses where they first emerge -- passing from animals to humans among poor subsistence hunters in Africa -- and stopping them before they claim millions of lives.
love bacon. Am I at risk?
Go ahead and have that BLT. It's not a problem. You can't get swine flu from eating pork. You'd have to have close contact with a living, breathing, infected pig to get this virus -- or rather, in order to have contracted the original pig virus. The interesting and important thing about this "pig flu" is that it's now spreading from human to human. It's become a human virus.
So people should take the usual precautions: Stay away from individuals who are sick. Wash your hands frequently. And the less you touch your face, nose and eyes, the better.
We've created a "perfect storm" for viruses. And we'll continue to see -- as we have in the past few years -- a whole range of new animal diseases as outbreaks in human populations. But we have to stop being surprised by them. Right now, global public health is like cardiology in the '50s -- just waiting for the heart attack, without understanding why they occur or the many ways to monitor for them, detect them early and ultimately prevent them. Swine flu is not an anomaly. We know that swine flu -- like the vast majority of new outbreaks -- comes from animals. We should be monitoring those animals and the humans that come into contact with them, so we can catch these viruses early, before they infect major cities and spread throughout the world.(read more...)