By Paul Hickey
Another animal has been diagnosed with another disease that could potentially infect humans.
The new virus has been identified as a flavivirus, ie., a “class of viruses that includes those that cause yellow and dengue fevers”.
As microbiologist George Gao of the Chinese Academy of Sciences explains, “most flaviviruses are zoonotic,” meaning they can be transmitted from animals to people, so “infection of human beings cannot be ruled out.”
Chinese Ducks Felled by New Virus
By the end of the year, an estimated 4.4 million ducks in Fujian, Shandong, and Zhejiang provinces, the swath of eastern China where duck farming is common, had caught the mysterious illness. And the outbreak reached at least six other provinces, along with rural areas outlying Beijing.
Enter microbiologist George Gao and colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. By analyzing the affected animals, the scientists isolated an aggressive new flavivirus, a class of viruses that includes yellow and dengue fevers—the first flavivirus ever identified in ducks.
The discovery of what the scientists have dubbed the BYD virus raises some critical concerns. In addition to potentially devastating Chinese duck farming and the economy that depends on it, the flavivirus could put humans at risk. “Most flaviviruses are zoonotic,” meaning they can be transmitted from animals to people, Gao says, “so infection of human beings cannot be ruled out.”