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Research Snapshot: Modeling how the flu moves through pig farms

Humans aren’t the only ones who can contract the flu.

Influenza A viruses can also affect pigs and their piglets, which is why, just like in human populations, pig populations are commonly vaccinated against the flu.

Last week, University of Minnesota researchers published a new model addressing how swine producers approach vaccinating their pigs.

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Researchers pay attention as apes and humans introduce new disease to each other

When an animal in a zoo becomes sick with a new or unusual disease, “it’s like a canary in a coal mine,” says wildlife epidemiologist Dominic Travis, D.V.M. “It’s an immediate sign that there could be trouble ahead if we’re not able to quickly determine the cause and change course.”

Having recently returned from a gathering of international ape conservation leaders, Travis, a specialist in wildlife veterinary medicine and epidemiology at the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine, feels energized for discussions around how disease transfers where humans and apes meet.

Travis is part of a national initiative investigating health issues at the interface of humans, wildlife, domestic animals and the environment. His research is part of a renewed international interest in the wildlife-human disease connection.

“It’s no longer debatable that the health of non-human primates, people and tourists nearby is inextricably linked,” said Travis.

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Health Talk Recommends: Solving a Viral Mystery

In September, we posted the first Health Talk piece dedicated to MERS, or what was then described as “a new SARS-like illness that has been confirmed in two people thus far.”

At that time, the message from most experts was simple: we need to know more, and we need to anticipate the next steps of the virus.

Since the first cases of MERS were reported, the virus has sickened 77 people, killing 40 of them according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And many initial questions have been answered, such as how the virus spreads.

But one question remains: where did MERS come from?

Yesterday, New York Times writer Denise Grady published a story that highlighted the search for the origin of MERS. It’s an interesting read and does a good job of profiling the unique challenges of diseases that originate in animals before making the “jump” to humans.

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