Flu has not been mentioned much in the news so far this year. Local availability of flu shots is good and many supermarkets and drug stores are providing vaccines. New strains may require a vaccine update sooner than expected acccording to some. A difficult subject for prognosticators and vaccine developers:

Influenza pandemics and epidemics have apparently occurred since at least the Middle Ages. When pandemics appear, 50% or more of an affected population can be infected in a single year, and the number of deaths caused by influenza can dramatically exceed what is normally expected. Since 1500, there appear to have been 13 or more influenza pandemics. In the past 120 years there were undoubted pandemics in 1889, 1918, 1957, 1968, and 1977. Although most experts believe we will face another influenza pandemic, it is impossible to predict when it will appear, where it will originate, or how severe it will be.


Researchers overseas think that the H1N1 influenza virus may be mutating, but say more study will be needed to determine how deadly the new strain is.The slightly new strain is beginning to show up in Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, RedOrbit.com reports.

Ian Barr, of the World Health Organization's Collaborating Center for Reference and Research on Influenza, in Melbourne, Australia, told RedOrbit.com that more study is needed to determine if current H1N1 vaccines can protect against the new strain completely.

"It may represent the start of more dramatic antigenic drift of the pandemic influenza A-(H1N1) viruses that may require a vaccine update sooner than might have been expected," Barr said, RedOrbit.com reports."


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