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Earth Medicine

Flu + La Nina = Pandemic? 105

Posted by timothy
from the african-or-european-swallow dept.
New submitter MrEricSir writes with some scary speculation from a BBC article about the confluence of climate and disease: "A correlation between illness and cold weather is nothing new but this one is very specific: La Nina changes the migratory patterns of birds which can (and often does, according to this theory) cause flu pandemics."
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Flu + La Nina = Pandemic?

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  • I'm guessing there's an intermediate step where the short term climate change means more/less domesticated birds, and/or one season's winter being more or less severe means more or less travel and more or less snow days.

    Dude in China can't catch bird flu from a bird that he didn't keep because feed is so expensive, and I can't catch it from my coworker if I'm trapped at home in a blizzard, and/or its so dang warm I can't catch it at the mall because I'm playing outside in the beautiful weather.

    • by plopez (54068) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @11:52AM (#38726182) Journal

      "dang warm I can't catch it at the mall because I'm playing outside in the beautiful weather."

      Just watch out for the West Nile virus. Dengue fever is starting to show up in higher latitudes as well. Better yet, just don't leave the house. And disconnect the computer from the internet so you don't catch a virus that way either.

    • ... more/less domesticated birds, and/or one season's winter being more or less severe means more or less travel and more or less snow days.

      Vague much?

  • La Niña? (Score:4, Informative)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @11:47AM (#38726108)

    The ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) usually exhibits a period of three to five years - so it's not exactly like La Niña is an uncommon event. If there's a correlation, it's pretty weak.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Frustratingly, the PNAS article isn't published yet, so it's impossible to assess how they came to their conclusions. Did the Beeb break embargo, or are the scientists actually doing the press release before the paper?

  • Who's la Nina? Do you mean La Niña? Oh, right...

    • I think you're mixing up Spanish with Wingdings.
    • by MrEricSir (398214)

      Yes, that's what happened when I tried to submit the story. That's why I removed the accent.

      • Or you could learn some HTML so you could write “La Niña.” It's pretty easy to look this stuff up...

        • Re:La Nina? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by sexconker (1179573) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @02:53PM (#38728608)

          Or you could learn some HTML so you could write “La Niña.” It's pretty easy to look this stuff up...

          Why in the fuck would you use an HTML entity for a perfectly valid character?
          It's SLASHDOT'S fault that anything unicode gets fucked to hell.

          HTML entities are for ESCAPING special characters like < via &lt; so they're interpreted and rendered as text and not code.

      • It's not an accent, ñ is actually another letter of the alphabet in spanish. "...l m n ñ o p q..."

  • A World Pandemic is eventual, and probably will be worse than previous Pandemics. With Climate Change increasing rapidly, Polution getting worse, and Population on the rise, I'm surprised a global virus hasn't killed millions of people yet.
    • Well, it would be hard for the next flu pandemic to not be worse that the last one, since the last flu pandemic killed fewer people in the U.S. than the flu usually kills each year (I do not have worldwide numbers, but my impression is that they were pretty low as well).
      The problem with discussions of flu pandemics is that a significant number of people trot out the 1918-19 flu pandemic as what we should be afraid of. The problem with that is twofold. First, it came right on the heals of WWI, with most of
      • by couchslug (175151)

        "Well, it would be hard for the next flu pandemic to not be worse that the last one, since the last flu pandemic killed fewer people in the U.S. than the flu usually kills each year (I do not have worldwide numbers, but my impression is that they were pretty low as well). "

        Depends on what sort of flu:

        http://virus.stanford.edu/uda/ [stanford.edu]

        • I am confused as to what your response has to do with the part of my post you quoted. However, in later portions of my post, I pointed out why it is improbable that we will have a reccurrence of the 1918-19 flu pandemic, as that one occurred before the development of modern medicine.
      • WWI certainly exacerbated the 1918 pandemic, but it was hitting parts of the world that really couldn't be considered part of the sphere of the war, so you seem to be stretching things a bit. As to modern medicines, that's true enough, but if you look at what's happened in the UK a few times over the last ten years with medical services absolutely swamped by high numbers of people seeking medical care, well, one can get the sense that if first world healthcare systems really got nailed hard, you can only tr

        • No, I am saying it is unlikely to happen because modern medicine is capable of treating a flu pandemic as is evidenced by what happened in every flu pandemic since 1919. It is not as if the last major outbreak of a flu pandemic was the 1918-19 occurrence. There have been three flu pandemics since 1918 and none of them have been anywhere close to as devastating as the 1918 outbreak. So, this is not a case of being a pollyanna, it is a case of looking at the history of flu epidemics and noticing that the last
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 246o1 (914193)

      A World Pandemic is eventual, and probably will be worse than previous Pandemics. With Climate Change increasing rapidly, Polution getting worse, and Population on the rise, I'm surprised a global virus hasn't killed millions of people yet.

      Perhaps you're unfamiliar with HIV?

    • yes yes, and you'll be very surprised when the world hasn't ended and everyone else is relaxing and enjoying their new-years-eve party on Jan 1st, 2013.
      We get it, the end is nigh, blah blah blah.
  • Holy cow, up until 10-15 years ago (I don't remember exactly when) most of us had never even heard of el nino/la nina.

    Now it seems like there's a fairly regular interval at which people come out and say that one or the other of these is the cause of all sorts of great weirdness.

    I honestly can't decide if there's any validity to it, or if people are just spending their research grants to tie their research to something which is on a 5-year (ish) cycle ... if you need to wait for the next cycle to continue yo

    • That wouldn't have anything to do with finally having the computing power to do whole Earth weather modelling, would it?
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        That wouldn't have anything to do with finally having the computing power to do whole Earth weather modelling, would it?

        Could be ... could be crank science ... could be conspiracy theories, aliens, Mayan Doomsday calendars, bad breath ... or irrefutable fact.

        My point was up until the first time most of us heard of El Nino a decade or so ago ... well, nobody had ever heard of it. And then the next year it was El Nina ... and then every year of so since it's been one or the other that's causing something or

        • My point was up until the first time most of us heard of El Nino a decade or so ago ... well, nobody had ever heard of it

          Well, no.

          El Nino/La Nina have long been known to affect the behaviour of hurricanes in the Gulf. So most of us who live down here have been paying attention to them for as long as I can remember...

    • by siride (974284)

      The reason you didn't hear about it is because we didn't really know about it until a few decades ago. It also got a lot of press with the massive 97/98 El Nino (that's when most people first heard of it) and also in 83/84, the last big El Nino before 97/98. It was first noticed in the late 1900s, though, so it's hardly new even in the scientific world. Now that we have much better measuring and modelling techniques, we can do more useful things with the knowledge of ENSO than we could in the past.

  • by orasio (188021)

    In other news, UTF-8 has not gained acceptance in US-centric websites.
    It's not that hard: "La niña", "El niño"

    • by sjames (1099)

      And Letterman's favorite, El Dingo.

      Eventually the memes will collide and we'll have El Dingo ate my baby.

  • Anyone who has seen "Morte a Venezia" (1971) already knows about the ability of climate to spread disease.

    A.

  • My theory is that, during the winter, we have far less sun exposure, due to shorter days, and people staying indoors to avoid the cold.

    This causes a huge drop in natural Vitamin D3 levels. So I supplement with Vitamin D3, especially during the winter.

    Now, I'm not a doctor or a scientist, but I never catch colds or the flu since doing this.

    I also NEVER get the flu shots. I was exposed directly to the H1N1 swine flu for 3 weeks, and never came down with it.

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