New studies are underway to develop a universal flu vaccine designed to protect against all potential varieties of influenza virus, including swine flu and bird flu. This research is especially important as health workers try to figure out how to get the new avian flu vaccine to everyone who may be exposed to the virus in the future.

Researchers plan to incorporate elements that are identical in all human virus strains, which should make the vaccine effective against all future flu variants. This would avoid the problem of having to create new flu vaccines every year, as the viruses mutate.

Around 10 to 20% of the world’s population is infected with flu every year, leading to 3 to 5 million hospital stays and 250,000 to 500,000 deaths a year?and this doesn’t count the massive bird flu epidemic that health workers fear is on the way.

In the last century there was the Asian flu, the Hong Kong flu and?worst of all?the Spanish flu which, between 1917 and 1920, struck more than 50 million victims.

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