News of the WeekSwine Flu Outbreak

Past Pandemics Provide Mixed Clues to H1N1's Next Moves

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Science  22 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5930, pp. 996-997
DOI: 10.1126/science.324_996

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Like hurricane watchers, public health officials must try to predict the velocity and course of the influenza A virus causing the swine flu outbreak, a novel H1N1, because they have to make complicated and expensive decisions about how aggressively they should pursue vaccines, antivirals, and mitigation strategies like school closings. Given the fuzziness of the data about this new virus's behavior, researchers are looking to the past for clues about the seasonality and geography of pandemic flu, the relationship between the new viruses and existing ones, and the behavior of this new H1N1's parent viruses in swine.