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Avian Flu Reminder

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, January 15, 2008

A woman in Indonesia died from avian flu. This would make her the 270th death from the disease since 2003.

The disease is typically contracted via contact with live birds. As long as the disease can only be contracted by humans after contact with fowl, it poses only a small threat to humans.

The fear, however, is that the disease will mutate and the mutation will allow the Avian flu to pass directly from person to person. It is believed this would be a catastrophe as around two-thirds of those infected have died from the disease.

Now we have a new study indicating that on the first voyage of Christopher Columbus to the New World, the sailors brought Syphilis to Europe.

This theory has been around for awhile. But there is a new twist:

But in a new wrinkle, the research suggests the disease may not have been transmitted through sex until it adapted to the environment in Europe.

“It evolved this whole new transmission mode, and it didn’t take very many genetic changes,” said study lead author Kristin Harper, a graduate student at Emory University. “What this tells us is that new transmission modes may evolve pretty rapidly. This is important to us today, because we’re worried about things like avian influenza going from human to human.”

We’ve run a number of pieces related to avian flu, including Bird Flu Warnings Demand Attention. We ran that piece in the second Pundit we ever produced — at the time everyone was talking about the need to take action, doing webinars, posting websites and what not. But it is difficult to sustain interest when the outbreak doesn’t come.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t. Since the disease hasn’t been spread among humans, few have any immunity to it; thus it is enormous danger.

What would your business do if there was a global pandemic of Avian Flu?

The CDC keeps a page on the issue here.

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