UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. See main page for full contents

September 18, 2009

THE SWINE FLU CONUNDRUM

LA Times - Swine flu's tendency to strike the young is causing confusion Even as health officials anticipate a new onslaught of H1N1 cases, the pattern of the pandemic influenza strain -- which tends to be fatal for the middle-aged but not the elderly -- remains a mystery. . . The initial explanation was that the elderly, who are usually most vulnerable to the flu, have built-in immunity as a result of their exposure more than 50 years ago to ancestors of today's pandemic strain. But the limits of the theory are becoming more clear. For starters, only a third actually have antibodies to the new H1N1. . . Further, the flu's two key genes came directly from pigs and are new to everyone. That means all age groups should be equally vulnerable since no one has encountered the genes before. Yet infants seem to be in less danger than older children and most adults. Unraveling these mysteries will be crucial to designing a strong defense against this tenacious virus. Tests in animals strongly suggest that H1N1 will be with us for the foreseeable future, supplanting the strains that cause seasonal flu within a year or two.

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