May 1, 2009

UW Virologist Puts Swine Flu in Perspective

"Let's not lose track of the fact that the normal seasonal influenza is a huge public health problem that kills tens of thousands of people in the U.S. alone and hundreds of thousands around the world," said Dr. Christopher Olsen, a molecular virologist who studies swine flu at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine in Madison.

Karen Kaplan and Alan Zarembo of the LA Times offer a precise and less alarmist explanatory piece today, 'Genetic data indicate outbreak won't be as deadly as that of 1918, or even the average winter.'

U.W. Madison and Zoonotic Diseases

U.W. Madison has a tutorial website on Zoonotic Diseases, "diseases caused by infectious agents that can be transmitted between (or are shared by) animals and humans," copyrighted by Dr. Olsen, continuing its tradition as a leader in this research field, and a page on Swine Flu.

From University Place - Wisconsin Public Television, below (posted on YouTube) is a lecture by Olsen: "Influenza: A Disease at the Interface of Animals and Human Beings," delivered on April 17, 2009, shortly before the first cases of this strain of Influenza A, (H1N1) virus [Swine Flu] were confirmed by CDC laboratories as occurring in the United States.

Olsen talks about the pioneering research on Zoonotic Diseases (of which Swine flu is a "classic Zoonotic infection") done at UW-Madison the last six decades [noting for example UW scientist Dr. Robert Hanson's research group that first isolated an influenza virus in pigs in 1949 and predicted the emergence of new Zoonotic diseases as ecological and environmental conditions in human and animal "host populations" change, describing perfectly present-day circumstances leading to the emergence of Ebola virus and Swine Flu for instance], 'genetic mixing" and how pigs for example act as an intermediate host of viruses that can be transmitted to human beings.

A virus needs a host, like a human being or other animal, to successfully reproduce itself.

"Bob Hanson was way, way, way ahead of his time," said Olsen. Great stuff, and so is the Wisconsin Idea and University Place - Wisconsin Public Television!

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