Village Voice September 26, 2012 : Page 15

of ducks. Somehow the virus jumped hosts, probably along the shore where the animals’ habitats overlap. The resulting paper was published in the journal mBio in July. A couple of months earlier, the U.S. government had asked scientists to with-hold research about danger-ous mutations in bird flu because of security reasons. Major news organizations picked up the study (as did the The Onion , which ran a fake man-on-the-street in-terview series: “Aw, jeez, now you tell me. I just picked up a couple of seal steaks at the Price Chopper,” la-mented Barbara Suarez). Anthony explained the subtle threat to the world. To invade cells, viruses use receptors, like little doors. This virus, now known as seal H3N8, had acquired a key to seal cells, when before it had only keys to bird cells. After jumping into seals, it adapted to jump between them. “Because of that, there’s every likelihood that this virus can therefore in-fect other mammals, too,” he says. Without further study, no one knows whether seal H3N8 might leap to people, much less if it could be as deadly as H1N1, a flu strain that killed 10,000 people in six months during 2009. The jump to mammals from birds is big-ger than a jump between two mammal spe-cies. In other words, the virus had already made the difficult initial leap. Anthony can’t be certain seal H3N8 is capable of in-fecting humans, but it has a stronger chance now that it has migrated to one mammal. “You have to imagine the possi-bility is certainly there,” he says. At times, the reaction to his discoveries ‘We have the unfortunate situation Where if we are successful in setting out to do what we want to do, we’ll never know it.’ and those of others can be overblown, he says, citing undue fear that we are “one or two mutations away from a pandemic.” If that were true, “there would be outbreaks every other day, and as a species we would have a hard time existing,” he says. Until science has mapped the universe of pathogens, no one can say precisely what reaction is appropriate. We know only that every landing airplane, every infected seal, poses some risk. “I think it is also im-portant to emphasize that it is very un-likely that seal flu will either jump into people or cause disease simply because these events are so rare,” he says. “What is important about this study is that it teaches us about how viruses emerge in new mammalian hosts.” On this rainy day, he shares a table with an aging woman in the packed atrium. She eavesdrops as he speaks about how patho-gen discovery is done and the need for sci-entists to continue the shotgun approach. As she stands up to leave, she mentions her amazement at how far science has come. It was the second time in weeks that a stranger in the atrium said something like that. He has gotten such comments many times. Just the other day, he was opening a bank account at a Chase on Ninth Avenue in midtown. The banker offhandedly asked, “What do you do?” When he told her, she wrote her phone number on a piece of paper, handed it to him, and said: “Give me a call when you find something serious. I want to be the first to know.” | CONTENTS | MUSTO | NEWS | FEATURE | VOiCE ChOiCES | ARTS | EATS & DRiNKS | FiLM | MUSiC | CHRIS PLOOF STUDIO Meteorite and Mokume Rings Village Voice 263A W 19 th St (btw 7th & 8th Ave) 212-366-4888/4115 T–F 12–7:30pm • Sa 12–6pm • S eptember 26 – O ctOber 2, 2012 Designer Cuts: Men & Women • Custom Color Relaxers • Extensions • Custom Wigs/Weaves Men/Women Hair Loss • WALK-INS WELCOME 3 E 44th St • 212-532-8300 • 116 East 7th st • 212-979-5515 Free bikini or neck laser for new clients. One year laser hair removal on 2 areas only $499.00 choose from lip,chin, sideburns, neck, underarms, shoulders, bikini, Brazilian, happy trail, hands,feet. 15

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