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Swine Flu May Be Less Dangerous Than Predicted: Study
Date:9/1/2009

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"Our findings underscore the need for vaccinating against the pandemic flu virus this season," Perez said. "The findings of this study are preliminary, but the far greater communicability of the pandemic virus serves as a clearly blinking warning light."

Perez's team used samples of the H1N1 pandemic variety from last spring's initial outbreak of swine flu. They believe theirs is the first study to look at how swine flu interacts with seasonal flu viruses.

Another hopeful sign that the swine flu pandemic might be milder than predicted came last month from two infectious-disease experts at the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Drs. David Morens and Jeffery Taubenberger challenged the notion that a mild flu in the spring can herald a more severe resurgence in the fall, a theory that has some scientists predicting a potentially dangerous swine flu resurgence this fall.

"Pandemic history suggests that changes neither in transmissibility nor in pathogenicity are inevitable," concluded Morens and Taubenberger in an article published in the Aug. 12 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Looking at the 1918-19 Spanish flu, which is thought to have killed 20 million to 40 million people worldwide, the researchers said the course of that illness varied greatly globally. They found no proof that it began in the spring with a less severe wave of infection and became more lethal through the summer as it picked up mutations.

They also studied 14 major flu epidemics dating to the 16th century and found no evidence supporting the "herald waves" theory.

Overall, "examination of past pandemics reveals a great diversity of severity," they said. "Some newer evidence [is] casting doubt on original herald wave theories."

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