Monday, April 1, 2013

Predicted flu pandemic compared to 1968 outbreak

SHANGHAI — Two men have died here after contracting a strain of avian flu that had not been previously found in humans, Xinhua, China’s official news agency, reported Sunday.

The predicted flu outbreak could become as severe as the flu pandemic that swept the world in forty years ago and caused more than a million deaths, according to the public health expert leading Britain's fight against the virus...

In the laboratories, scientists have analysed more than 800 samples from patients who have presented around the country with flu-like illnesses over the past week.

They are also working to develop faster diagnostic tests that will be sent out to local health authorities and hospitals to speed up the diagnosis of swine flu in potential patients.

Epidemiologists are also studying the virus in an attempt to identify the groups who may be most vulnerable and need to be vaccinated first, according to press reports from England.

Sophisticated computer models are also being used to simulate the virus's spread around the country over the coming months and how long it may last.

The Hong Kong Flu of 1968-69 (subtype H3N2):
People who survived the 1957-58 Asian Flu pandemic had developed resistance to the H2N2 virus responsible for the outbreak. However, during the next decade the virus mutated by changing its H antigen - the hemagglutinin - and enough people's immune systems were fooled by the change to spark a pandemic of the new H3N2 subtype. The virus likely combined and incubated in pigs, who then transferred it to human carriers.
As the common name indicates, the H3N2 flu strain was first detected in Hong Kong in July of 1968; the illness spread explosively in Hong Kong's tightly-packed population, but the death rate was very low.

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