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Desert Diary
Biology/Bird Flu


We've always lived in a dangerous world, though the comforts of civilization often have shielded us from that knowledge. Part of the dangers come from the ever changing environment. Setting aside such obvious catastrophic events as floods, volcanism, and earthquakes, we have to consider the dangers of evolution. No, not that believing in evolution might cost you your soul, but the fact that agents of disease, like other things, evolve.

Some such evolution is to the good, as when disease organisms evolve toward lessened virulence. Other evolutionary events, however, may be even more serious than the physical catastrophes. Bird flu is much in the news these days, and it's not just because of the economic losses associated with infections in birds. The fear is that the virus may evolve the ability to be passed from human to human, setting off a pandemic that might involve millions. Never happen? The 1918 flu epidemic is estimated to have killed between 25 and 50 million people; the 1918 flu virus started out as a bird flu virus. Enough said?
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Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.



Web Resources

PBS on Influenza

CDC: Avian Flu