Just Small Genetic Tweaks To Chinese Bird Flu Virus Could Fuel A Human Pandemic

by Nell Greenfieldboyce / NPR Health

A study published Thursday shows how a bird flu virus that’s sickening and killing people in China could mutate to potentially become more contagious.

Just three changes could be enough to do the trick, scientists report in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

And the news comes just as federal officials are getting ready to lift a moratorium on controversial lab experiments that would deliberately create flu viruses with mutations like these.

Public health officials have been worried about this bird flu virus, called H7N9, because it’s known to have infected more than 1,500 people — and killed 40 percent of them. So far, unlike other strains that more commonly infect humans, this deadly virus does not spread easily between people.

The fear is that if it mutates in a way that lets it spread more easily, the virus will sweep around the globe and take a heavy toll, because people’s immune systems haven’t ever been exposed to this type of flu before. Past pandemics caused by novel flu viruses jumping from animals or birds into people have killed millions.

Read the entire article


An update on the current situation:

The good news is that as of April 12., our two local animal shelters are taking in pigeons and other birds again, after being not allowed to do so for many months due to avian influenza making the rounds in Hamburg over and over again. This is helping very much with the overall situation.

However, I have nothing but PMV pigeons whom I cannot give to the shelters. We do have a lot of progress with construction work at the Steilshoop sanctuary, where they will be hopefully soon (for real) moving to.

We currently have 8 PMV pigeons at home, most of them in seperate cages, which is quite a lot (too much) work, so I’ll be glad to have fewer to worry about soonish. This is also why I haven’t been updating the tumblr for a while now, along with some personal events that took a lot of energy.


1. Helga, a short time guest with a wing injury who spent a weekend with us while her caretaker was travelling.

2. Dorette as a pigeon burrito, older pic from when I had to hand-feed her.

gravegh0st  asked:

Hiya! I asked scriptsoldier about this, but they couldn't suggest anything and recommended I bring it to you. Can you tell me anything about being a military veterinarian, (particularly army)? I want my character to have a unique veterinarian job. (If you have other suggestions those are cool too!)

Veterinarians in the military, working in a military capacity, are not nearly as common now as they were in the days of cavalry.

There have been veterinary corps, but their purpose was to support the light horse divisions before vehicles and mechanisation. Some armies maintain a handful of veterinary staff for dogs, but this is rarely in the field. My understanding is that they mostly undertake preventative work - vaccines, parasite control, dentistry, gastropexy etc. Generally speaking if a dog is injured in the field, it receives first aid there before being sent to the army vet.

Veterinarians are such a small part of the modern army as animals are now used to little. Some vets to sign up for the army, but not in a veterinary capacity. I think Australia has about two army veterinarians. Perhaps other followers will offer more information about their relative countries?

Other areas that are similar but where more veterinarians are employed would be working with police dogs, or customs/quarantine detector dogs. Large service organisations, like guide dogs for the blind, also employ their own veterinarian or two to oversee all the preventative health side and the breeding of their own dogs.

As for unique veterinarian jobs, where to start? With a veterinary degree you could do anything from work on salmon farms in the Atlantic, to teaching locals how to vaccinate chickens for more efficient egg production in Africa, to doing welfare work at remove locations. They may take government work to model disease outbreaks, real or hypothetical, or produce vaccines, or work in meat safety or live animal export. They may anaesthetise pigs to train human surgeons on, or test biomedical implants on animals, or provide technical assistance to working vets about drug interactions or side effects. They could reside in a lab and spend all their days researching a fungus that’s wiping out frog populations, or avian influenza, or testing flea control products.

They may also do none of that at all and only review pet insurance claims.

There are so many things a vet can do with their degree other than dogs and cats, horses and cattle.

Too fat to be a veterinarian

Thinking about body positivity this month reminded me of a story from university.

In my final year of vet school, I did a placement in early spring in Gippsland. Rolling hills of green pastures, with freezing weather and cows giving birth in it. It was hard work in the bitterly cold.

I was suffering a pretty severe respiratory infection at the time, and almost considered not going. However, I dared not to because I was so desperate to graduate. I had myself tested for influenza, this was at the height of the avian influenza pandemic, and as I was negative decided to go.

Being out all night, traipsing through the soggy paddocks, pulling calves and pushing uteri back in is not the wisest thing to do with a chest infection. Consequently, I continued to be short of breath and cough all the time for the three week rotation.

I still accomplished everything, went through paddocks, carried the things and completed the work, I just coughed up a lung all the time and was short of breath.

At my review, I was deeply wounded and horrified when the first thing the academic associate said to me was, “You’re just too fat to be a vet.”

My self esteem was usually rock bottom due to my weight, and I needed good marks, so I didn’t argue back as harshly as I wish I had. I was short of breath because I was sick, yet I still got everything done. I might not have looked like every other pretty blond thing he’d hired in the last five years, but I thought I had done really damn well in the circumstances.

In hindsight, I find it deeply ironic when I recall my male cattle lecturers, and in particular my favourite one I will always remember as a serious man with a very large abdomen. He would have never said ‘too fat to be a vet’, and in fact was really encouraging for every student, no matter how big, little, strong or weak they were, to encourage us to work with cattle. No matter how large you are, or how strong you are, the cow will always be bigger and stronger than you. He was an inspiration, in addition to a genuinely wonderful human being.

I think part of the attraction to my first job was seeing experienced, competent female veterinarians working there that were also on the larger side. That was comforting and reassuring to see so shortly after being wounded by this academic associate’s words.

Of course I graduated, and worked with cattle my first few years out. Being fat wasn’t a problem in getting the job done. I even gained weight in those years, and it never slowed me down or rendered me incompetent. It didn’t matter.

And I’m not the fattest veterinarian out there. It just doesn’t matter.

I wish I was well enough to have that fight with him then, and not completely dependant on his subjective opinion to pass the rotation. I hope he doesn’t inflict those views on any other unfortunate student.

anonymous asked:

i was wondering whether zoos/aquariams were really 'un-vegan'? i understand a bit i guess because using animals for human entertainment etc. but aren't they also important for educating people and to a degree helping endangered animals? i don't mean to come off as rude but just wondering

dw sweetie you’re not being rude :~)

Many animals in zoos show signs of distress, such as pacing or rocking backwards and forwards repeatedly; Lions in zoos spend 48% of their time pacing, a recognised sign of behavioural problems

Like many animals in captivity, orcas and dolphins have been known to exhibit stereotypy, or abnormal, stereotypical behavior. This behavior is a repetitive habit that has no actual goal or function. Some examples of stereotypy include: vomiting, head bobbing, pacing/circling, comotose-like states, self mutilation

In 2013, CAPS revealed that the UK’s largest aquarium operator, Sea Life, could trace less than 3 pence per visitor to in situ conservation projects.

 It is at least 50 times more expensive to maintain elephants in zoos than to protect equivalent numbers of elephants in the wild

25 zoos have been forced to close, or will be closing, their elephant exhibits, for reasons ranging from lack of funding for exhibit expansions to welfare concerns such as inadequate space, unsuitably cold climates, and insufficient social groups

a zoo in Denmark has killed a family of four lions to make way for a new young male lion . they also killed a healthy giraffe because it was deemed surplus to requirements.

animals are so distressed out of their natural environments that they are being prescribed mood altering drugs including anti-depressants, tranquilizers and anti-psychotics

in 2006, accredited zoos in Denver; Houston; Litchfield Park, Arizona; San Antonio; San Diego; and Tampa, Florida, imported 33 monkeys who had been illegally trafficked by poachers in the African continent.

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s chief of veterinary services has called on members of the zoo community to support the use of surplus zoo animals in medical experiments.

elephants typically walk up to 30 miles in just one day, but they are locked inside barns when the zoo is closed and during winter months

the close contact of humans and zoo animals along with being fed badly can result in disease, with over 80 tigers dying in sriracha zoo, thailand, of avian influenza in 2009

a high proportion of british zoos are failing to meet minimum animal welfare standards nearly thirty years after the Zoo Licensing Act came into force

a lack of knowledge and training of enforcement personnel and zoo operators has been found by investigators across europe

make of these what you will, i’m not going to push my beliefs on you just show you the facts. for more info i suggest visiting adviceforvegans.tumblr.com

S. Korean President Park Geun-hye Statement, Following Impeachment

English translations of Park’s remarks to her cabinet and prime minister on Friday, Dec 9 following an overwhelming vote by the legislature to impeach her in a sprawling corruption scandal:

“When I think about what the people of South Korea, witnessing this situation, are feeling, all I feel is a sense of apology and misery. I believe that at a difficult time such as this, the people of the nation rely on and trust in the public servants who have always quietly done their duty. I ask the PM and Ministers to encourage and take care of the public officials so that they may focus on their work, and to please stay strong and wise for the sake of national issues and the stability of the public livelihood.

This afternoon the bill for the impeachment of the president passed in the National Assembly. I want to sincerely apologize to the people of the nation for this large-scale national chaos they’re experiencing due to my carelessness and deficiencies, especially amid the security and economic difficulties our country is currently going through.

Moreover, I feel regretful at having made things more difficult to all of the public officials, including the Prime Minister and the other Ministers of the Cabinet, who have all shown their devotion to the nation and the people, day and night.

I am taking the voices of the National Assembly and the people seriously and sincerely hope that the chaos right now will end well. I will face the verdict of the Constitutional Court and the investigation of the independent counsel with a calm and serene mind, according to the the process determined by the Constitution and the law.

I understand that things must be very difficult for all of you and that your hearts must be very heavy but I believe that when you consider the serious situation here and and overseas that confronts us, as well as the reality of our national security, we cannot relax for even a moment. In this uncertain time, when it’s difficult to predict what’s next, we cannot afford to neglect the national interest and the livelihoods of the people of South Korea.

I hope that the Prime Minister, who will be acting president, and the Ministers of the Cabinet, will unite,  with extraordinary determination to do their best in ensuring that there are any void in the administration of national affairs are minimized, whether in the economy or in national security.

Recently, the restructuring of corporations, and the spread of avian influenza among other things have meant that hardships have increased for the affected areas as well as the economic livelihoods of the people. The winter is a time when the suffering is especially acute for low-income and vulnerable classes such as senior citizens who live alone, undernourished children and those who are energy-poor, among others. Even when we look back at the past, we see that the more confused the situation and the more chaotic society, the more difficult the lives of the common people and the vulnerable classes. It is of course important that there are no voids in the affairs of the state, but I ask you to take special care in ensuring that there are no blind spots in attending to the stability of public welfare.  

I feel deeply regretful that because of recent events, the sincerity of the national policies that the government has pursued in the attempt to create future growth opportunities for our country are being brought into question. If the flame of South Korea’s growth is put out because of this, then so too will hope in our future be broken. I ask that all of the Ministers maintain their focus and continue to pursue the national policies for the development of South Korea’s future.”

Women’s History Month - Margaret Chan

Margaret Chan is known throughout the world for her efforts to increase global health. During her 9 years as Director of Health in Hong Kong she implemented new services to combat the spread of disease. Margaret Chan gained recognition for handling many different health issues including the avian influenza outbreak in Hong Kong in 1997 and the SARs outbreak in 2003. Chan is the World Health Organization’s current Director General for Pandemic Influenza and Communicable Diseases. Her current efforts lie with helping “people in the greatest need”, focusing on the health of people in Africa and the health of women. She has been recognized globally for her achievements and has received several awards. In 1997 she was awarded by the Royal Colleges of Physicians in the United Kingdom and was declared an Office of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth. In 1999 she was awarded the Prince Mahidol Award for Public Health in Thailand. Margaret Chan’s strides toward global health make her a leading figure in the health community.

Thank you!

I’ve had several of you message me about waterfowl and avian flu. Cooter and I just wanted to say THANK YOU for the info and warning. The additional duck meat I have in the freezer will be headed for the trash can.
As a falconer, my biggest concern is the safety of my hawk. I’m very aware of the fact that I’ve taken a wild animal from the habitat he lived in and introduced him to a different world. Inevitably this includes risk and exposure to some things that he would never encounter otherwise. It’s a moral and ethical obligation I have to Cooter…something I’m aware of everyday. I’m honored that he puts up with me and lets me go in the field with him, but I have to remember that he has the option to NOT come back to me. That’s part of the beauty of falconry…the careful balance of respect and admiration. Every time he chooses to come back, the bond grows and we learn more about each other.
I think it’s awesome that this community chose to message/reblog the previous posts with info on avian flu. I wanted to thank you all for sharing the info and for your concern! You guys ROCK!

I have not been able to go birding lately because they have been finding highly pathogenic avian influenza in local birds.  They suspect that migrating waterfowl have been carrying it into the area.  I have chickens and ducks at home and do not want to risk bringing home any disease on my shoes - or bringing anything on my tires and shoes from one wildlife area to another.  I miss my wild bird walks terribly and hope to be back posting more pictures sooner rather than later.

Avian influenza death (Eygpt)-delayed report

WHO Global Alert and Response (GAR):

Avian influenza - situation in Egypt - update 60

5 January 2012 - The Ministry of Health and Population of Egypt has notified WHO of a case of human infection with avian influenza A (H5N1) virus.‪

The case is a 42 year-old male from Menofia Governorate. He developed symptoms on 16 December 2011 and was admitted to hospital on 21 December 2011, where he received oseltamivir treatment. He was in critical condition and died on 22 December 2011.

The case was confirmed by the Central Public Health Laboratories, a National Influenza Centre of the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance Network, on 24 December 2011.

Investigations into the source of infection indicated that the case had exposure to sick and dead backyard poultry.

Of the 157 cases confirmed to date in Egypt, 55 have been fatal.

Avian Influenza (H5N1 Virus)

Bird flu is caused by a type of influenza virus that rarely infects humans. But when bird flu does strike humans, it’s often deadly. More than half the people who become infected with bird flu die of the disease.

In recent years, outbreaks of bird flu have occurred in Asia, Africa and parts of Europe. Most people who have developed symptoms of bird flu have had close contact with sick birds. In a few cases, bird flu has passed from one person to another.

Health officials worry that a global outbreak could occur if a bird flu virus mutates into a form that transmits more easily from person to person. Researchers are working on vaccines to help protect people from bird flu.

Keep reading

Ebola won’t kill us all, but something else might. Like everything living on Earth, viruses must evolve to survive. That is why avian influenza has provoked so much anxiety; it has not yet mutated into an infection that can spread easily. Maybe it never will, but it could happen tomorrow. A pandemic is like an earthquake that we expect but cannot quite predict.
—  Michael Specter on Ebola and what may come next: http://nyr.kr/1zD9e65

Map showing overlap in breeding relative abundance for mallard and gadwall species. Note that the geographic distribution of gadwall breeding locations is contained almost entirely by areas where mallard breed, with similar areas of high- and low-breeding concentrations across the contiguous United States. The mallard tested positive at some of the highest rates and the gadwall was near the lowest in proportion of AIV positive tests, suggesting geographic overlap alone does not explain variations in species prevalence patterns.

Published in Farnsworth ML , Miller RS , Pedersen K , Lutman MW , Swafford SR , et al. (2012) Environmental and Demographic Determinants of Avian Influenza Viruses in Waterfowl across the Contiguous United States. PLoS ONE 7(3): e32729. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032729