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Catastrophes after Crossing Species Barriers

Albert Osterhaus
Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences
Vol. 356, No. 1410, Origins of HIV and the AIDS Epidemic (Jun. 29, 2001), pp. 789+791-793
Published by: Royal Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3067026
Page Count: 4
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Catastrophes after Crossing Species Barriers
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Abstract

Probably the most tragic examples of virus infections that have caused the deaths of many millions of people in the past century were the influenza and AIDS pandemics. These events occurred as a direct result of the introduction of animal viruses into the human population. Similarly, mass mortalities among aquatic and terrestrial mammals were caused by the introduction of viruses into species in which they had not previously been present. It seems paradoxical that at a time when we have managed to control or even eradicate major human virus infections like polio and smallpox we are increasingly confronted with new or newly emerging virus infections of humans and animals. A complex mix of social, technological and ecological changes, and the ability of certain viruses to adapt rapidly to a changing environment, seems to be at the basis of this phenomenon. Extensive diagnostic and surveillance networks, as well as novel vaccine- and antiviral development strategies should provide us with the safeguards to limit its impact.

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