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H1N1: Swine flu virus not so new, study finds

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Swine flu virus not so new, study finds

The H1N1 swine flu virus may have been new to humanity in many ways but in one key feature its closest relative was the 1918 pandemic virus, researchers reported on Wednesday.

ImageTheir findings could point to better ways to design vaccines and help explain why the swine flu pandemic largely spared the elderly.

“This study defines an unexpected similarity between two pandemic-causing strains of influenza,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement.

Two studies show an important structure called hemagglutinin is very similar in both the swine flu H1N1 and its distant cousin, the H1N1 virus that caused the 1918 pandemic. Hemagglutinin is used by viruses to infect cells and gives influenza viruses the “H” in their designations.

For one study, published in Science Translational Medicine, Chih-Jen Wei, Gary Nabel and colleagues at NIAID injected mice with a vaccine made using the 1918 influenza virus — which killed an estimated 40 million to 100 million people.

When they infected the mice with H1N1 swine flu, the vaccinated mice survived, while many unprotected mice died.



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Written by CarlAn

25/03/2010 at 15:54

H1N1: Study confirms low mortality for swine flu, in Harvard University

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One of the most systematic looks yet at the swine flu pandemic confirms that it  is at worst only a little more serious than an average flu season and could well be a good deal milder, researchers said on Monday.

Study confirms low mortality for swine flu

They analyzed data from Milwaukee and New York, two U.S. cities that have kept detailed tabs on outbreaks of H1N1, to calculate a likely mortality rate of 0.048 percent.

“That is, about 1 in 2,000 people who had symptoms of pandemic H1N1 infection died,” Dr. Marc Lipsitch of Harvard University and colleagues wrote.

Probably 1.44 percent of patients with H1N1 who were sick enough to have symptoms were hospitalized, and 0.24 percent required intensive care, they added.

The findings, published in PLoS Medicine, a Public Library of Science journal, should be reassuring to public health officials and policymakers who worry that a flu pandemic could kill millions and worsen the global recession.

They do not, however, guarantee that H1N1 will not worsen, or that some other, stronger, strain of flu will not emerge.

“We have estimated … that approximately 1.44 percent of symptomatic pandemic H1N1 patients during the spring in the United States were hospitalized; 0.239 percent required intensive care or mechanical ventilation; and 0.048 percent died,” Lipsitch and colleagues wrote.

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