Bird Flu and the real thing

Let’s get one thing straight:

All flu is bird flu.  Practically all new strains of influenza originate in China because that’s where the two species that get flu the most — pigs and ducks — live by the millions in close proximity.  Every time a duck gets the flu from a pig, or pig from a duck, the flu virus changes slightly; and when one of these infects a farm worker, the new strain crosses over into the human population.  It is by monitoring influenza emergence in China that each year’s flu vaccine is prepared.  So far, over the last 30 years or so, predictions have been very accurate, with only one recent strain mutating somewhat on the way to the US — with the vaccine retaining partial efficacy.  Still, of those not getting the vaccine, tens of thousands still die each year from complications of influenza.

Continue reading