Whenever we hear on the news of new cases of avian or swine flu, it sends people in a tizzy of worry. But how many of us actually do something to prevent getting it?

The new variant of bird flu, H7N9, has only infected a few people in isolated areas in China; at least, so far. The mortality rate is very high because the virus is different from recent flu strains and our immune systems are not too well prepared to handle it. These are the typical pandemic hallmarks. So what can we do about it?

The One Health movement is working to monitor the sites of interaction between humans and wild and domestic animals, since these have great potential for microbe transfer. One Health also emphasized the need to manage ecosystems to preserve their natural balance, instead of forcing wildlife to live in too-close quarters. Climate change also allows for the spread of microbes into places that were once too cold for them to survive. Organizations like One Health and the Wildlife Conservation Society believe in the necessity of critical support for public health on the principle that we either “pay a bit now, or pay dearly later.” In a world where travel between Asia and North America takes less than a day, diseases can travel rapidly, outstripping the rate at which we are prepared to fight them. Better that they not develop in the first place, if we can help it.

We as humans work very hard at separating ourselves from nature, but diseases like avian influenza remind us (or they should anyway) that we are part of nature and our actions will come back to haunt us. We are part of the ecosystem and the changes we enact upon it, causing problems for other species, are our problem too.

Read the entire article here: Pretense and Defense of Our Skin in the Game