Unspinning the NewFlu

Some of you will remember that I was teaching at RU when the “bird flu” just began to reach public attention. I followed it and still do as a potential public health issue.

I mentioned early on that the pig to human issue would probably be an important ingredient in a potential pandemic as pigs are genetically and antigenically more like humans than birds, and if bird flu genetic material and human genetic material combined with swine viral elements, that would make for a new ball game. And here we are.

But at present, the actual mortality threat is not a great concern for me, personally, and I don’t feel we are at great risk on our flights home today. However….

My greatest concern about this latest episode of multi-genetic flu (bird, human and pig) is that, with the wide spread into the human population, there will now be abundant human incubators in which recombination and mutation of this novel and previously unseen viral entity can take place, leading possibly to increased virulence and resistance to antivirals.

Such a change could cause this relatively serious “swine flu” to go from bruising the global economy to worse than that.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Hi-density pig farm (Smithfield) in Mexico at epicenter of this new flu (back in February.)

    Mexican Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova said tests now show that a 4-year-old boy contracted swine flu in Veracruz state, where a community has been protesting pollution from a large pig farm, at least two weeks before the first death confirmed by the Mexican government. The farm is run by Granjas Carroll de Mexico.

  2. It’s my opinion that all the various swine and bird flu’s are just waiting to combine with the virulent and antibiotic-resistant strep viruses floating around hospitals into an all-but-unstoppable pandemic.

    I know that’s biologically improbable if not impossible, but my nightmares are not logical.

    Bad joke: combine swine and bird flu and you get flying pig flu!