Hidden Viruses: How Pandemics Really Begin Spillovers happen when animal pathogens jump into people. Researchers used to think this was rare. Now it is clear spillovers happen all the time. That has changed how scientists look for new viruses.
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Hidden Viruses: How Pandemics Really Begin

Chelsea Beck for NPR

A new flu is spilling over from cows to people in the U.S. How worried should we be?

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Can cuddling or kissing a pet put you at risk of contracting an unknown virus? Can people pass a virus to pets? Those are questions that pet owners ponder. And if Centu (left) and Ruby (right) could talk, they'd probably ask as well. Ben de la Cruz/NPR; Lauren Migaki/NPR hide caption

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Ben de la Cruz/NPR; Lauren Migaki/NPR

Neudy Rojop decided to work in public health when she was a young girl observing how frequently her young family members and neighbors got sick with unknown illnesses. Luis Echeverria for NPR hide caption

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Luis Echeverria for NPR

A kid in Guatemala had a dream. Today she's a disease detective

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Bats congregate in the Bat Cave in Queen Elizabeth National Park on August 24, 2018. Scientists placed GPS devices on some of the bats to determine flight patterns and how they transmit Marburg virus to humans. Approximately 50,000 bats dwell in the cave. Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images hide caption

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Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Olivia Taussig-Rees for NPR

How do pandemics begin? There's a new theory — and a new strategy to thwart them

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The premise of The Last of Us is that the cordyceps fungus turns people into creatures that do the fungus's bidding. HBO Max/Screenshot by NPR hide caption

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HBO Max/Screenshot by NPR

'The Last Of Us' made us wonder: Could a deadly fungus really cause a pandemic?

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Wielding the "insectazooka," Cecilia González prepares to collect mosquitoes from a house in the village of Los Encuentros, Guatemala. Luis Echeverria for NPR hide caption

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Luis Echeverria for NPR

For these virus-hunting scientists, the 'real gold' is what's in a mosquito's abdomen

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Yeshnee Naidoo prepares a "flow cell" for analysis by one of the center's many genetic sequencing machines. Tommy Trenchard for NPR hide caption

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Tommy Trenchard for NPR

Who's most likely to save us from the next pandemic? The answer may surprise you

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A researcher releases a bat after taking samples and inserting a microchip into it in Faridpur, Bangladesh. Fatima Tuj Johora for NPR hide caption

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Fatima Tuj Johora for NPR

Nipah: Using sticks to find a fatal virus with pandemic potential

The Nipah virus is on the World Health Organization's short list of diseases that have pandemic potential and therefore pose the greatest public health risk. With a fatality rate at about 70%, it is one of the most deadly respiratory diseases health officials have ever seen. But as regular outbreaks began in the early 2000s in Bangladesh, researchers were left scratching their heads. Initially, the cause of the outbreaks was unknown to them. But once they identified the virus, a second, urgent question arose: How was the virus jumping from bats into humans?

Nipah: Using sticks to find a fatal virus with pandemic potential

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A field researcher holds a male bat that was trapped in an overhead net as part of an effort to find out how the animals pass Nipah virus to humans. The animal will be tested for the virus, examined and ultimately released. Fatima Tuj Johora for NPR hide caption

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Fatima Tuj Johora for NPR

The Nipah virus has a kill rate of 70%. Bats carry it. But how does it jump to humans?

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On Jan. 23, 2020, as the coronavirus spread in China, residents of Wuhan, where it was first identified, donned masks to go shopping. The U.S. didn't officially endorse masks as a preventive measure for the public for a number of weeks. Stringer/Getty Images hide caption

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Stringer/Getty Images

Large congregations of bats have been fingered in the spillover of Hendra virus. Vivien Jones hide caption

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Vivien Jones

Hendra virus rarely spills from animals to us. Climate change makes it a bigger threat

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