Swine Flu Not So Tough: Scientists

Strain could be less lethal than seasonal flu, analysis shows

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 30, 2009 8:09 AM CDT

(Newser) – Scientists are gradually downgrading their worst-case scenarios for the swine flu outbreak, the Los Angeles Times report. The H1N1 strain initially appeared to have disturbing similarities to the 1918 flu virus, but researchers analyzing genetic data released this week say the strain is less lethal than feared—and may in fact be less harmful than seasonal flu.

Health officials say the virus is still spreading and is likely to cause more deaths in the US, but nothing on the scale of the annual flu season, which kills tens of thousands of Americans yearly. Scientists, while beginning to relax about the current outbreak, warn that the virus could mutate into a deadlier form if it survives long enough. "If this virus keeps going through our summer," one microbiologist said, "I would be very concerned."

A lab researcher works on a general bacteria test at the microbiology laboratory in Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong Tuesday, April 28, 2009.
A lab researcher works on a general bacteria test at the microbiology laboratory in Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong Tuesday, April 28, 2009.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
A public health microbiologist in Sacramento County's infectious disease laboratory prepares samples to test for swine flu, Tuesday April 28, 2009.
A public health microbiologist in Sacramento County's infectious disease laboratory prepares samples to test for swine flu, Tuesday April 28, 2009.   (AP Photo/Renee C. Byer, Pool)
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Let's not lose track of the fact that the normal seasonal influenza is a huge public health problem that kills tens of thousands of people in the US alone and hundreds of thousands around the world, - Molecular virologist Dr. Christopher Olsen

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