Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Influenza

Common infectious RNA viral disease characterized by fever and chills, and often accompanied by intestinal symptoms. Some strains can be fatal. Hosted by pigs and waterfowl (the disease reservoir); becomes newly virulent every twenty years or so, not by primary mutation of its genome but by genetic recombination of its internal and surface H and N glycoproteins. It is thus called a perpetually emerging virus; this mode of phenotypic change is called antigenic drift. It can be transmitted by several means, but the most common mode is via airborne droplets. The 1918-19 influenza epidemic killed 50 million people worldwide; most of these deaths were due to pneumonia (secondary to influenza) and death occurred with 48h of the initial symptoms. Recent serial pandemics of influenza have been called Asian flu, Swine flu, and Hong Kong flu. New forms of influenza usually break out in areas where pig manure is used as a fertilizer for fish aquaculture ponds, or where pigs, ducks, and farmers are in close contact (e.g. in southeast Asia). There are three common variants, A, B, and C, one of which can also cause a version of the common cold. Aka flu.

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