Scientists swab their butts to protect us from flu viruses found in bird poop

A deadly virus could wipe out 30 million people in one year on this Jersey shore — that threat is a pandemic flu virus that scientists are not ready to fight.

“The world needs to prepare for pandemics in the same serious way it prepares for war,” Bill Gates shared last year on the 100-year anniversary of the Spanish flu — which wiped out 50 million people in 1918. 

If the virus is left unchecked, a pandemic flu could kill a total of 150 million people today which is near half the population of the US in just 20 months.

Image via flickr

“If history has taught us anything, it’s that there will be another deadly global pandemic,” Gates said.

Each and every pandemic flu from the Spanish flu in 1918 to the 2009 H1N1 outbreak has originated in birds as they are nature’s hosts for pandemic flu.

So each and every spring, a troupe of flu researchers travel to the southernmost tip of New Jersey in Delaware Bay, a flu hotspot, where a group of seasonal frenzy of migrating birds creates a breeding ground for the flu virus.

Image via flickr

These flu-carrying birds come from all over to congregate each spring to consume horseshoe crab eggs.

Their annual research there involves taking samples from bird poop and butts — a weird but very effective ritual that scientists hope will help the next pandemic flu before it’s too late.