Saturday, November 26, 2011

New swine flu virus discovered...

...but apparently it's nothing to worry about. The CDC has confirmed 10 cases this year of a new strain of influenza A, S-OtrH3N2 (doesn't quite have the same catchiness as "H1N1"), that originated in pigs. However, unlike the H1N1 scare of a few years ago, this new strain doesn't show signs of being dangerous. For one thing, it's treatable with antiviral medication. Also, the cases have been spread across the country (Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa, Maine), which means the disease hasn't expressed itself in outbreaks or clusters.

Even though this new strain of flu isn't as dangerous as many of the other viruses discussed on this blog, flu viruses are interesting (among many other reasons) because they mutate often and so are changing all the time. The article mentions that even though it might seem like there are more strains of flu popping up than ever before, the increase in numbers is probably due more to technological advances in diagnostic techniques than an actual rise in the numbers of flu strains. Additionally, the article lists two examples of novel flu strains that weren't so harmless as this new H3N2 virus: the H1N1 outbreak of a few years ago, and the devastating 1918 epidemic. It's interesting to think that each year's new flu mutation may turn out to be relatively benign or quite dangerous.

--Sarah Kaewert

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