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A Year After Its Emergence, H1N1 Swine Flu Lingers
Date:6/4/2010

It's likely that the virus, so rampant last spring, will adopt a regular fall/winter pattern, experts say

FRIDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- A year ago, global alarm over the emergence of an unpredictable new strain of H1N1 pandemic flu was in full swing. Headlines blared that thousands were becoming sick; face masks and hand sanitizers were selling out as soon as they hit store shelves.

So, where is H1N1 this spring?

On Thursday, Dr. Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organization, announced that the virus is still considered pandemic, meaning widespread, although case numbers have ebbed considerably.

Meanwhile in the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that, as of May 22, just 1 percent of outpatient visits involved flu.

But, the new H1N1 flu -- sometimes called swine flu -- long ago pushed aside prior seasonal flu viruses to become the dominant strain. And experts believe it will settle into the regular fall/winter outbreak pattern that people are used to.

This type of major viral shift occurs every few decades with influenza, experts noted.

"What most people are expecting is that [the new H1N1 strain] will supplant the older H1N1 viruses that were the previous seasonal strains and become the seasonal H1N1 virus," explained Dr. John J. Treanor, professor of medicine and of microbiology and immunology at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. "The most likely scenario would be that we would continue to see the descendants of pandemic H1N1 causing seasonal outbreaks of flu, with probably normal timing," he said.

So H1N1 pandemic flu will -- like prior dominant flu strains -- probably mount a resurgence this fall and wane again in the spring of next year. That's the polar opposite of how it first appeared on the scene in the spring of 2009.

Another expert agreed that H1N1 flu may seem to be gone right now,
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