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What Do Chickens Have to Do With Chicken Pox?

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Chickens image via Shutterstock

The birds themselves? Not a whole lot. Chickens don’t even get infected by the virus — varicella zoster, a member of the herpes family — that causes the rash. (They can however, get an infection with similar effects called fowl pox.)

The name, rather, likely comes from chickens’ association with weakness and wimpiness*. 

Just like we might tease our chicken-livered friends for chickening out from an adventure that we’re brave enough to handle, the name chicken pox distinguishes the milder infection from the more serious and deadly smallpox and syphilis (a.k.a. the Great Pox).

While this origin seems to be the most widely agreed upon and used, there are two more explanations sometimes given in medical texts. One is that the name came about because the rash’s lesions can resemble chickpeas. The other is that the Old English word giccan (“to itch”) either got corrupted into “chicken” or mixed up with the similar-looking Old English cicen (“young fowl”).

And pox, if you’re wondering, is a variant spelling of pocks, the plural of the Old English pock, or “pustule.”

* As for why we associate chickens with weakness, I haven't been able to find anything solid, but the Straight Dope boards provide some interesting and amusing discussion on it.

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Big Questions
What Is the Difference Between Generic and Name Brand Ibuprofen?
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What is the difference between generic ibuprofen vs. name brands?

Yali Friedman:

I just published a paper that answers this question: Are Generic Drugs Less Safe than their Branded Equivalents?

Here’s the tl;dr version:

Generic drugs are versions of drugs made by companies other than the company which originally developed the drug.

To gain FDA approval, a generic drug must:

  • Contain the same active ingredients as the innovator drug (inactive ingredients may vary)
  • Be identical in strength, dosage form, and route of administration
  • Have the same use indications
  • Be bioequivalent
  • Meet the same batch requirements for identity, strength, purity, and quality
  • Be manufactured under the same strict standards of FDA's good manufacturing practice regulations required for innovator products

I hope you found this answer useful. Feel free to reach out at www.thinkbiotech.com. For more on generic drugs, you can see our resources and whitepapers at Pharmaceutical strategic guidance and whitepapers

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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Big Questions
Do Cats Fart?
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Certain philosophical questions can invade even the most disciplined of minds. Do aliens exist? Can a soul ever be measured? Do cats fart?

While the latter may not have weighed heavily on some of history’s great brains, it’s certainly no less deserving of an answer. And in contrast to existential queries, there’s a pretty definitive response: Yes, they do. We just don’t really hear it.

According to veterinarians who have realized their job sometimes involves answering inane questions about animals passing gas, cats have all the biological hardware necessary for a fart: a gastrointestinal system and an anus. When excess air builds up as a result of gulping breaths or gut bacteria, a pungent cloud will be released from their rear ends. Smell a kitten’s butt sometime and you’ll walk away convinced that cats fart.

The discretion, or lack of audible farts, is probably due to the fact that cats don’t gulp their food like dogs do, leading to less air accumulating in their digestive tract.

So, yes, cats do fart. But they do it with the same grace and stealth they use to approach everything else. Think about that the next time you blame the dog.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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