Distributing illness

The list of difficult issues on our human agenda seems to increase, wot?

Q&A on swine flu with virus hunter Nathan Wolfe:

“We’ve created a perfect storm for viruses”

“For most of our history, we lived in geographically disparate populations. So viruses could enter from animals into humans, spread locally and go extinct. But the human population has gone through a connectivity explosion.

Romance through a surgical mask“All humans on the planet are now connected to each other spatially and temporally in a way that’s unprecedented in the history of vertebrate biology.

“Humans — as well as our domestic animals and wild animals we trade — move around the planet at biological warp speed.

“This provides new opportunities for viruses that would have gone extinct locally to have the population density fuel they need to establish themselves and spread globally. … we’ll continue to see … a whole range of new animal diseases as outbreaks in human populations. …

“Right now, global public health is like cardiology in the ’50s — just waiting for the heart attack, without understanding why they occur or the many ways to monitor for them, detect them early and ultimately prevent them.”

How did swine flu enter into the human population?

Swine flu has been known since at least the early part of the 20th century, since the 1930s. It was originally a virus of bird origin — all influenza viruses were originally bird viruses — and it probably spread to humans before it was in pigs.