Bird flu:How dangerous is it?


Saw it this morning. I know that this could be very severe. We don’t really have any way of defending against the virus once it gets to us.

I’m just wondering how likely it is to become transmitted to humans. Most of the reading I’ve done says that it’s possible but not likely.

What’s the Straight Dope? Should we start cracking open peoples skulls and feasting on the grey goop inside?

I think what everyone’s worried about is a mutated form of the virus that is easily transmissible from human to human. People have already gotten sick and died after catching the virus from birds. The problem is that these viruses are constantly mutating and exchanging genetic material, so a virus that kills chickens this month may become a virus that kills humans next month. With the close proximity of pigs, chickens, ducks, and humans on many Asian farms, that is supposed to be a common place for viruses to jump species.

Knew most of that. It’s just a matter of going from a disease that can go from bird to human to a disease that can easily go from human to human. How likely is that?

According to this, the main reservoir of the influenza virus is the migratory duck. So species jumping is a regular occurrence for these viruses. It’s just a question of which virus and when.

LINK to another current Thread on this topic.

Basically, what would have to happen is one person would have to be infected with both the deadly-but-not-transmissible version of the flu and the highly-contagious-but-not-very-serious version of the flu at the same time. If both types are present in the same cell, then because of the way the virus’ genome is organized, it can swap genetic information, and potentially create a highly contagious and deadly version. After that, of course, it would have to be transmitted to other people.

Incidentally, you could also get a rearranged not very serious and not very contagious version, but we’re OK with that.