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Bird Flu and Other Influenzas Affecting Man and Dog

Bird Flu and Other Influenzas Affecting Man and Dog

Since December 2014, APHIS (Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service of the US Dep’t of Health) has confirmed hundreds of cases of “Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza” (HPAI), H5N2 variety, in US commercial and backyard poultry flocks, and in wild birds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the risk to the general public from these HPAI H5N2 infections to be low, with no human cases of these specific viruses detected in the world. (Yet!)  

There is good scientific reason for us to add that “yet” word, and I’ll try to explain why, while still cautioning you not to panic like Chicken Little, aka Henny Penny (Ask the oldest person you know who that was). Viruses make up a class that act somewhat like molecules and somewhat like cells, being intermediate in size, as well. They reproduce (multiply) by splitting, the way most body cells do, but they also break apart and reunite in different configurations the way chromosomes do. In way of over-simplifying the picture, imagine viruses as long chains composed of snaps like those on the end of your dog’s leash. Now imagine each chain as being of a different color and shape—some brass, some chrome-plated, some stainless steel, etc. Continue reading