News Stories

Flu: Who Knew?

Swine Flu spreads all over New York City - The Swine Flu outbreak in New York started in one private school in a borough of Manhattan, probably from a student whose family had recently taken a trip to Mexico, but the flu has now spread across the city to hundreds of people. Since New Yorkers commute to the city from New Jersey, Connecticut and even Pennsylvania, it will soon show up there too. Many of them also have weekend houses upstate. It has also quickly spread to other New York schools. Thank goodness the pandemic is not expected to be as serious as it was feared it would be at first.

Swine Flu is suspected to be infecting children at another school in Queen as well as a school in the Bronx. A Catholic school in the Spanish-Speaking area of Manhattan has also reported cases of students with symptoms. Students at Columbia University, which is in the same area as the Manhattan school, may have caught the disease as well.In the April 28th edition of the New York Times, Anemona Hartocollis interviews New York City health commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, who says, "It is here, and it is spreading." Hartocollis talks about what puzzles all health experts about this crisis: why the symptoms in New York so far are so much milder than those in Mexico.

Some scientists say that we should have seen Swine Flu coming years ago, and if we had we could have a vaccination for it by now.

This type of virus emerged in the US in 1998 and has since become common on hog farms. Birds and people rarely catch flu viruses that have adapted to another host, but they can both pass on their flu to viruses to pigs, which have their own strains of flu. If a pig catches two kinds of flu at once, one from humans and one from birds, a hybrid virus can emerge that has genes from both viruses, and that's how we got Swine Flu.

In New Scientist, Debora MacKenzie quotes researcher Robert Webster as saying, "It appears the threat has now resulted in the Mexican flu. The triple reassortant in pigs seems to be the precursor."

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