August 14 – Hiding in plain sight

Today’s factismal: The MERS corona virus may hide in camels.

If you’ve been watching the health news lately, then you are familiar with the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus. It first appeared in humans last year and so far has made about 94 people sick and killed 46. So why should we worry about something that has done so little damage? Because medical researchers remember the 1918 “Spanish flu” epidemic. And they know that the surest way to prevent another such disaster is to catch it in the early stages.

But it is very hard to catch the early stages of diseases such as the Spanish flu and the coronavirus. That’s because these diseases don’t start out in humans; instead, they start out in animals (and are frequently named for them, as those who remember the swine flu and bird flu can attest). At some point, the disease jumps from its normal host animal (where it may not cause any symptoms) and into humans, creating an outbreak.

One sign that is sometimes useful for indicating that a disease may be ready to jump hosts is any unexplained increase in ill or dead animals. And that’s where you can help. If you see a sick critter, be it fish, fowl, or four-legged,  then please report it to the Wildlife Health Even Reporter. They’ll take your information and pass it on to the researchers, who will then use it to monitor the health of the wildlife. To give a report, head over to:
http://www.whmn.org/wher/

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