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Why NOW?

Why does the flu strike in cold weather? It's a tough year for the flu: this year the virus mutated after the flu vaccine was produced, meaning that only 40% of people who took the shot are protected.

Researchers have discovered that flu viruses cover themselves with a warm winter "coat" of fat that hardens into a gel to protect them from the cold. This coating melts in the higher temperatures present in our bodies, giving the virus a chance to infect us.

BBC News quotes researcher Duane Alexander as saying, "Now that we understand how the flu virus protects itself so that it can spread from person to person, we can work on ways to interfere with that protective mechanism."

But this explanation doesn't satisfy everyone. BBC News quotes researcher John Oxford as saying, "If this is the case why do we get flu in tropical areas, where the temperature is [95F] all the time? Places like Vietnam and Indonesia are predicted to the epicenter of a new outbreak of pandemic flu. I don't think this study provides anything like a definitive answer on the spread of the virus?there must be some other factors that come into play."

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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