First Human Case of Avian Influenza for 2016


Fresh and Live Chickens Sold at a Market in Laos (Photo via Flickr/Shankar s).

In Suzhou City, China, a 60-year-old man contracted the first known case of the H7N9 avian influenza strain of the year.  He was diagnosed with pneumonia by several hospitals, but eventually testing by Hong Kong’s Public Health Laboratory Services revealed that he had H7N9.  He was moved to Princess Margaret Hospital on Feb. 23, and his wife, son and others close to him are being monitored.

The man reported that he had no contact with live poultry, but it is known that he visited a wet market. These common, traditionally outdoor markets serve the poor in China, and they usually sell fresh meat, produce and live animals. However, some newer indoor wet markets may lack live animals.

It is unconfirmed whether the man visited a market with live poultry or not.  Although he said that he had no contact with poultry, he may consider contact to be physical interaction with live birds and not realize there are alternate methods of contagion.

The most common way that avian influenza can pass to people is through accidental contact with bird feces.  In addition, it is believed that inhaling aerosolized material in wet markets is one of the main ways that humans can get infected. Thus, this man could have been infected by the former or the latter.

Unfortunately, despite yet another case of avian influenza being attributed to wet markets, the practice of selling live poultry is likely to continue in China.  Hong Kong’s government proposed central slaughterhouses for chickens in 2008 but was met with public backlash, as customers want to be able to inspect the birds which they buy.  However, because of the number of cases of avian influenza contracted last year in China, it is possible that the government will institute new policies despite protests.

First Case of H7N9


Bird Flu Outbreak in Bangladesh and Nigeria


(Wild geese in Stillwater. Picture by Rachel Higgins)

Outbreaks of various H5 avian influenza strains have occurred in France, Nigeria, Vietnam and Bangladesh.  H5 strains, particularly H5N1, are dangerous, as they can spread to pigs, mutate and then pass to humans.  Some strains can pass directly to humans and can be lethal for adults.

On Feb. 4, an outbreak of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza in crows was confirmed in Bangladesh and is believed to have spread from France.  Although H5N1 is not the main strain in France currently, the country has been dealing with H5N2 since Jan. 28 and has lost thousands of birds.

In addition, Nigeria and Vietnam have both had recent outbreaks of H5 strains with the H5N6 strain in Vietnam concerning health officials.  H5N6 is a strain that is also found in Laos, Hong Kong and China that can spread to people, although so far only China has reported human infection. Both Nigeria and Vietnam have lost thousands of poultry and are expected to lose more due to poor biosecurity.

Although the United States has not had an outbreak of H5 strains in recent years, it seems likely that it may spread to North America.  Bird flu from Europe seems to be moving into Africa now, and the Asian strains are starting to appear in more countries.  The most likely way for an H5 strain to come to North America is the migration route that passes through Alaska and then the Midwest.

Ducks and Canadian geese that fly along this path often carry various strains of avian influenza and are the main source of the virus in recent years.  They can contaminate water sources with their feces, which indirectly infects poultry.  Currently, only good biosecurity practice can prevent them from spreading the virus.

Outbreaks in Four Countries


Making of a Podcast


(My keyboard and “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Picture by Rachel Higgins)

Last week I posted a podcast in which I interviewed Mrs. Claudia Mornhinweg, a Stillwater piano teacher.  Claudia was an excellent guest speaker and I hope people enjoyed the podcast.   However, with this post I want to describe the production of the podcast.

For the podcast I rented an audio recorder and microphone from the Media Department of OSU.  When I first started the interview, I did not realize that I would need to wear headphones to hear the recording and spent several minutes recording “Hello? Testing.” Fortunately, Claudia was patient and once we started the interview,  there were no issues with her voice being too soft or unclear.

On the other hand, my voice was inadequate, as I was unclear and could barely be heard. When I asked Claudia questions after some of the stories she shared with us, I was laughing,  so what I said would have been hard to understand. I ended up re-recording  most of my lines with Audacity later, splicing them in, and raising the volume so I could be heard.

Of course, raising the volume caused background noise, so I ended up using Audacity to reduce it. Audacity also proved to be useful for cutting out the long pauses that occurred when Claudia and I passed the microphone back and forth, as well as any “uhs.”

My final step with Audacity was to splice in some piano music, and originally, I planned to play “Puff the Magic Dragon” for background music.  Unfortunately, when I tried to reduce background noise with Audacity, it erased parts of the song.  In the end, I found some piano music online, spliced it in, and, with some relief, uploaded the project to SoundCloud before posting it on my blog for listeners.

Piano Podcast on Soundcloud