Infectious animals

Critters spread many germs that can sicken each other — and even kill people

By Amanda Leigh Mascarelli, 14:50 PM April 17, 2013


Jonathan Epstein studies how diseases are transferred between animals and people. This bat, Pteropus giganteus, commonly carries Nipah virus. The germ killed hundreds of people and more than one million farm animals. Credit: EcoHealth Alliance


When people talk about catching the flu, most consider classmates, family members or neighbors as likely sources. So it might be surprising to learn that the viruses we get a flu shot for each year originate in birds, not people. Birds can spread flu not only to other birds, but also to livestock and people (which then spread the virus among their own kind).


Like all viruses, influenza — or flu, for short — can live only within an organism. Scientists call that animal the germ’s host. Over ...

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