133In recent years, highly pathogenic H5N1 inuenza (also known as avianinuenza or bird u) has swept through poultry populations in large swathso East and Southeast Asia, creating the potential or a pandemic. China hasbeen identied as the principal reservoir or inuenza and southern China asthe inuenza epicenter. China’s role as an incubator o inuenza viruses can betraced to the rst domestication o the duck, which occurred about 2500 BCE,near the beginning o Chinese recorded history.
Studies suggest that wild aquatic birds—ducks—are the principal hosts orinuenza in nature. Te two primary habitats o ducks are on lakes in the arreaches o Siberia and in the rice paddies o southern China. Migrating ducks,hosts to great numbers o u viruses, “seeded” southern China with the virusesas they moved south, and the virus took hold in domesticated ducks. Althoughducks were domesticated 4,500 years ago, it was not until the early years o theQing dynasty, in the mid-17
century, that Chinese peasants began keepingducks together with wild waterowl in rice paddies.Troughout history, the connection between birds and the u has spawnedepidemics in Asia, especially in southern China. Dense concentrations o humansand livestock have le ew o China’s original migratory habitats intact.
Birds ndit dicult to locate quality places to land as they make their migration every yearbetween southern Indonesia and the Arctic Circle o Siberia. Consequently, they land on arms and compete with domestic animals or ood and water, thereby introducing new viruses into arms and spawning epidemics in China.Te country is estimated to have 640,000 to 1 million villages where owl areraised in close proximity to humans and which annually raise about 13 billionchickens, 60 percent o them on small arms. Unortunately, China’s agriculturalpractices have not changed appreciably in any o the peasant areas where birdslive with humans—birds are treated as pets by peasant children—and inectioncontrol measures or arming are not only disregarded but also mostly unknown.Te critical link in the spread o u viruses to humans is the swine populationin the arming areas where wild and domesticated owl interact. ypically, avian viruses do not pass directly to humans. (When they do, they are usually extremely lethal.) In the annual development o u viruses, the avian viruses normally pass through the swine population beore reaching the human population.Additionally, an avian virus can enter the pig population, then recombine witha human virus that also has been passed to pigs. Te result is a dangerous avian virus that can inect humans.
Understanding and interacting with China requires understanding itsculture. In general, because o ever-increasing global economic interdependence,