News of the WeekInfectious Diseases

As Swine Flu Circles Globe, Scientists Grapple With Basic Questions

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Science  01 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5927, pp. 572-573
DOI: 10.1126/science.324_572

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On 27 April, 6 days after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first reported an unusual swine flu outbreak in humans, international agencies were still struggling to determine how serious a threat the virus posed. Shortly after CDC rang the alarm bell on 21 April in a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report dispatch about two cases of swine flu in southern California, scientists and health officials around the world went on alert, concerned that this never-before-seen virus could lead to a killer pandemic. They quickly determined the genetic sequence of the virus, linked the U.S. cases to an apparently much larger outbreak in Mexico, and began fashioning international and local responses. But some say the world hasn't done nearly enough over the past 10 years to prepare for a pandemic.