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Bird Flu: What Happened Last Time

A new form of bird flu, different from the Asian strain, has turned up in the U.S. As scientists worry that bird flu in Asia may have mutated and become contagious, they are looking at what happened in the past. In 1918, the worst flu epidemic in history killed 50,000,000 people worldwide, caused by a flu virus that jumped from birds to humans.

Researcher John Skehel says, "If we find that the structure of a bird virus resembles that of the structure of the 1918 virus that we have determined, then we will know that it potentially poses a threat to man, and it will have to be kept under more active surveillance than usual."

The 1918 flu killed more people than the Black Death in the Middle Ages. It probably affected the outcome of World War I, since so many soldiers were infected on both sides. The flu came in three stages and the second caused the most loss of life. Although most people who got it recovered, some died within 24 hours of becoming infected.

Instead of just worrying about travelers from Asia bringing the flu the U.S., we now need to be concerned about a U.S. strain of the disease. 12,000 infected Delaware chickens were destroyed last weekend in an attempt to try to prevent the spread of bird flu here. This is a different strain from the flu now spreading through Asia.

Delaware agriculture secretary Michael Scuse says he?s "fairly confident" the virus hasn?t spread to humans or other flocks of chickens. All chickens within a two-mile radius of the destroyed flock will be tested. No chickens from the affected farm have been sold to Purdue or any other large distributor.

If only we contact people who were alive at the time of the last major flu epidemic, and ask them what happened?wait, maybe we can. Carole Lynne says, "I want you to get a good reading [from a medium] because I know how healing it can be to connect with the spirits of those who have passed on. If you are ready, let's go."

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