Reading The causes of the Spanish flu, which killed 20 to 40 million people worldwide in 1918 within just a few months, did not come from birds, as many speculated. This is what American scientists say after genetic testing of infected waterfowl caught during the epidemic. The scientists around James Dean of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington had found in birds from the more than 600, 000 specimens collection of the museum viruses that are merely similar to the devastating pathogen. Genetic testing has shown, however, that the deadly virus was not from the birds, the researchers report in the "Journal of Virology" (August issue).

Virologists had previously suggested that Spanish flu was transmitted by pigs that had come into contact with viruses from birds. Bird viruses are also responsible for other flu episodes such as the Asian flu. Only five years ago, hundreds of thousands of chickens had been killed in Hong Kong after the flu death of several people.

ddp / bdw - Ulrich Dewald

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