WASHINGTON, April 23 (Reuters) – Seven people have been diagnosed with a new kind of swine flu in California and Texas, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday.
All seven people have recovered but the virus itself is a never-before-seen mixture of viruses typical among pigs, birds and humans, the CDC said.
With the ramping up of ever changing news out of Mexico regarding the new avian/swine/human influenza (H1N1) outbreak, I feel I must make a confession here: plague fascinates me. Not just bubonic, though that too. Plagues are just fascinating.
Anyway, in reading up on Ebola and other viruses, I came across a section of a paper from the University of Illinois at Chicago that I thought would be a helpful primer to explain just exactly how we could end up with a flu that looks like the bastard child of a wild night with a pig, a bird and a man. How the heck does that happen? Emphasis mine.
Do you recall our discussion of plasmids and ‘jumping genes’? They were a mechanism for DNA to move between not only various species of organisms, but between entire families of organisms. For example, they can move between bacteria and yeasts, between plants and bacteria, between complex parasites and their host cells. Some researchers suspect that HIV retrovirus had its beginning as such ‘renegade’ genetic material.
Some viruses are notoriously unstable. The flu virus is a dramatic example. Not only are they capable of spontaneous change, they are also capable of trading genes in a process called re assortment. This is why a different one emerges each year–and some years the new configuration is devastatingly virulent as in 1918.
So, now you know how a never before seen ManBirdPig Flu* came to be. I hope that helps.
Below is a little bit on my favorite virus: Ebola. Not that any of this will help you survive if ManBirdPig flu becomes pandemic, but at least you will die a bit more informed.
Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever gives me the shivers, it’s like staring into the eyes of a cobra waiting to strike, it’s horrible, deadly and beautiful all at the same time. I regularly search the internet for news of a new outbreak. I am morbidly fascinated by what the virus does to a human body, or just primates for that matter. Viruses replicate themselves, using the host as building blocks. Viruses replicate inside the host cell until the cell bursts open with millions of viruses. The host cell is dead, used up and broken. Ebola is wickedly adept at replication.
From UIC: (emphasis mine)
Ebola is distantly related to measles, mumps, and rabies. It is a single strand of RNA and is considered to be extremely ancient. Then a “hot” virus multiplies in a host, it can saturate the body with virus particles. This unbridled growth is called “extreme amplification.” It is as if the virus converts its host into itself.
After exposure to Ebola, headache begins by the 7th day. By the tenth day, there are nausea, fever and vomiting–black and red vomit. The eyes turn red, the skin yellow. There is then a massive hemorrhaging from every orifice in the body. The massive bleeding is described as ‘crashed and bled out.’ Many tissues and organs are virtually liquified.
Ebola comes in a couple of models, Ebola Reston can be transmitted via airborne particles but is not dangerous to humans, Ebola Sudan kills about 50% of the people who get it, Ebola Zaire kills about 90% of the people who get it. Every time I read about Ebola Zaire it is called a “slate wiper”. Easy to see why. Marburg is closely related, it is another filovirus.
*ManBirdPig Flu is not to be confused with ManBearPig.
Update: Just so you know, you can still eat port. K? Just handle it properly. Don’t do things like, oh, snort a line of raw pork from an infected pork lung. Sheesh.