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Swine Flu May Be Rewriting the Flu-Season Script
Date:12/24/2009

H1N1 could be dominant strain this winter, 'crowding out' typical seasonal flu, experts say,,

THURSDAY, Dec. 24 (HealthDay News) -- The month of December typically marks the start of the seasonal flu season.

But since the emergence of the H1N1 swine flu back in April, nothing has been typical about influenza, one of the most common infectious diseases.

And in the topsy-turvy world that is flu research right now, some experts are speculating that seasonal flu -- the garden variety influenza -- may not be much of a factor in the weeks and months to come, once it's "crowded out" by swine flu.

If true, such a scenario could greatly benefit older adults -- especially those 65 and older -- who are most vulnerable to seasonal flu. But a flu season dominated by H1N1 swine flu would spell continuing trouble for children, younger adults (those under 65) and pregnant women, all of whom have been targeted by the newly discovered disease.

In fact, in the Southern Hemisphere, which recently emerged from its winter flu season, very little seasonal flu was diagnosed at all and most infections were caused by H1N1 flu.

"In Australia, and I am pretty sure the same thing is happening around the world, essentially H1N1 is dominating all of the circulating strains. We didn't see much of the regular influenza A or the influenza B either," said Dr. Terry Nolan, head of the Melbourne School of Population Health and the department of public health at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Nolan said the H1N1 flu could become the dominant strain for several years, squeezing out other strains.

"In our winter, the H1N1 pandemic strain was responsible for 80 percent or more of all of the circulating flu, and that's one of the reasons the World Health Organization recommends that it go into next year's seasonal vaccine," he said.

But will the same thing happen in North America? Flu expert Dr.
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