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NOVA scienceNOW: Pandemic Flu

Program Overview


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Scientists contrast the ways bird flu and human flu spread. They also discuss how the flu responsible for the 1918 flu pandemic may have started as a bird flu that changed to a form that could infect people and spread easily from person to person.

This NOVA scienceNOW segment:

  • describes how the current bird flu infects people but does not spread easily from person to person.

  • explains that the virus responsible for bird flu spreads through bird feces, and the one that causes human flu spreads through coughing and sneezing.

  • tells that the 1918 bird flu acquired characteristics that enabled it not only to infect humans, but also to be efficiently transmitted by them to other people.

  • uses a model to explain how viral-RNA copying mistakes might give rise to a bird virus that can infect humans.

  • says that scientists do not know whether it is a large or small change in a virus that allows it to spread from person to person.

  • reports that scientists do not yet know how dangerous the present bird flu will be.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after the program is taped off the air.

Teacher's Guide
NOVA scienceNOW: Pandemic Flu
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