Credit: U.S. Army
Researchers have found that the avian flu viruses currently circulating have all the genetic material they need to morph into a virus similar to the 1918-1920 ‘Spanish Flu’ that killed an estimated 40 million people around the world. The eight genes required to allow the emergence of the killer virus has all been found in the gene pool of the currently known avian influenza viruses.
The research term used reverse genetics to arrive at their conclusion: “there are gene pools in nature that have the potential to cause a severe pandemic in the future,”
The research was conducted in high containment units with full biosafety equipment due to the possible consequences of an accidental release of the virus.
The migratory patterns of birds mean that we will never be entirely sure that a transmissible form of avian flu has not made its way to our shores. The constant genetic mixing and recombination of genetic material means it is more like not a matter of if, but of when we will face the challenge that could wipe out a sizable proportion of the worlds population.
The 1918-1920 epidemic killed some 40 million people, though some estimates put the figure much higher. The worl population at that time stood at 1.8 billion souls against the 7 billion that currently inhabit the earth.
This much higher number, and the fact that cities are much larger now, with people living in much closer proximity than they were in 1918, gives ANY virus a much greater chance of spreading through the community.
Adjusting for population increases, the government estimates that were such a pandemic to occur today the death toll would be 175,000,000-350,000,000 worldwide.(source)
A letter from a physician at one U.S. Army camp to a colleague puts a more human face on those numbers of infected in 1918:
These men start with what appears to be an ordinary attack of LaGrippe or Influenza, and when brought to the Hosp. they very rapidly develop the most vicious type of Pneumonia that has ever been seen … and a few hours later you can begin to see the Cyanosis extending from their ears and spreading all over the face, until it is hard to distinguish the colored men from the white. It is only a matter of a few hours then until death comes…. It is horrible. One can stand it to see one, two or twenty men die, but to see these poor devils dropping like flies…. We have been averaging about 100 deaths per day…. Pneumonia means in about all cases death…. We have lost an outrageous number of Nurses and Drs. It takes special trains to carry away the dead. For several days there were no coffins and the bodies piled up something fierce…. It beats any sight they ever had in France after a battle. An extra long barracks has been vacated for the use of the Morgue, and it would make any man sit up and take notice to walk down the long lines of dead soldiers all dressed and laid out in double rows…. Good By old Pal, God be with you till we meet again (Grist, 1979).
With the huge increases in global travel, both for business and pleasure increases the possibility of any virus spreading faster and more effdectively than ever before. It’s a frightening scenario but one that we will inevitibly face.
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Contributed by Chris Carrington of The Daily Sheeple.
Chris Carrington is a writer, researcher and lecturer with a background in science, technology and environmental studies. Chris is an editor for The Daily Sheeple. Wake the flock up!