Be­yond bird flu,

Modern Healthcare - - MODERN HEALTHCARE -

If bird and swine in­fluenza strains haven’t been enough to give public health of­fi­cials agita when try­ing to per­suade Amer­i­cans to get flu vac­cine shots, now they also have to con­tend with the po­ten­tial of hu­man-ac­quired bat flu.

While ap­par­ently not pos­ing a cur­rent threat to hu­mans, a new in­fluenza A virus dis­cov­ered in fruit bats in Gu­atemala is on the radar of the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion, ac­cord­ing to a study pub­lished in the Feb. 27 is­sue of the jour­nal Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Academy of Sci­ences.

“This is the first time an in­fluenza virus has been iden­ti­fied in bats, but in its cur­rent form the virus is not a hu­man health is­sue,” Sux­i­ang Tong, team leader of the Pathogen Dis­cov­ery Pro­gram in the CDC’S vi­ral dis­eases di­vi­sion and lead au­thor of the study, said in a re­lease. “The study is im­por­tant be­cause the re­search has iden­ti­fied a new an­i­mal species that may act as a source of flu viruses.”

Nonethe­less, the threat is worth watch­ing be­cause bat flu has the po­ten­tial to change form, al­low­ing it to be ac­quired by hu­mans, the au­thors note.

Out­liers hopes “True Blood” or the “Twi­light” se­ries picks up on this. We’d love to do an Out­lier on Sookie or Bella caring for a cute lit­tle flu-sick bat. Ah­hhh. honor a re­quest such as Fried­lan­der’s based on the tat­too alone.

But the mark­ings do of­fer a sim­ple and per­ma­nent way to give res­cuers im­por­tant health de­tails.

The Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion does not specif­i­cally ad­dress med­i­cal tat­toos in its guide­lines. But Dr. Saleh Al­da­souqi, an en­docri­nol­o­gist at Michi­gan State Univer­sity, hopes that might change.

Al­da­souqi, who has writ­ten about the tat­toos, has seen them among his di­a­betic pa­tients and feels they are be­com­ing so pop­u­lar that the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion needs to help guide their de­vel­op­ment.

“My in­ten­tion has been to bring this is­sue to the sur­face so that med­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions can have a say in that,” he said. “When you just Google it, you’re go­ing to find hun­dreds of sto­ries and dis­cus­sions, but no med­i­cal say. So I feel we leave our pa­tients kind of afloat.”

The Na­tional Tat­too As­so­ci­a­tion, a not-for-profit that raises aware­ness about tat­too­ing, does not track the num­bers or styles of tat­toos. Sailor Bill John­son, a spokesman for the as­so­ci­a­tion, said he does about one med­i­cal tat­too a year at his shop in Or­lando, Fla. ( Out­liers in­cluded him just be­cause we love his name. We hope he has Pop­eye tat­tooed on his arm.)

GETTY IMAGES

Tak­ing a nap or sick with the flu? This fruit bat isn’t say­ing.

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