For the next flu season, the vaccine will include these 3 strains:
- The 2009 “swine flu” strain, H1N1
- The previous seasonal flu, H3N2
- Influenza B, a milder flu that has been around for decades.
In 1918, the Spanish flu (which originated in the U.S., despite its name) spread throughout the world and killed an estimated 30-40 million people, in the worst flu epidemic in recorded history. This was the original H1N1 flu. It soon evolved into a milder flu, which was around until...
In 1957, a new pandemic strain appeared, H2N2 or "Asian flu." This completely replaced H1N1 in the human population, although H1N1 continued to fluorish in pigs (more on that below). H2N2 dominated until...
In 1968, the Hong Kong flu pandemic, H3N2, swept the world and replaced H2N2.
Then, very suspicously, in 1977 the H1N1 strain reappeared in Russia. It is widely believed that this was an accidental escape from the Soviet Union’s biowarfare program. This H1N1 strain didn’t replace H3N2, but both strains have co-circulated ever since, with H3N2 generally causing more serious illness.
All along, the milder influenza B strain has been around as well. That’s why the vaccine contains 3 strains: H3N2 (from 1968), H1N1 (from 1918 via Russia in 1977), and flu B.
That brings us to late 2008. Several strains of Spanish flu (H1N1) had been circulating in pigs for decades. Two of those strains combined to create the new pandemic flu, which jumped from pigs to humans. Oddly enough, we don’t have any reports of a pandemic among pigs, which is why “swine flu” is a misnomer. Here are the latest statistics for human infections in the U.S., for the last week of March 2010:
- 3.7% of people tested turned out to have influenza. (In other words, the season is over, as I predicted in mid-January.)
- 98% of positive influenza specimens were pandemic H1N1.
- 2% of positive specimens were influenza B.
The CDC's advisory panel also (rather quietly) expanded their recommendation on who should get vaccinated “to include all people aged 6 months and older.” That’s right, everyone, even the elderly. Wait until the anti-vaccination movement gets hold of this – they’ll have a field day. Actually I’m surprised they haven’t already. Maybe they don’t know about the nanobots we’ll be putting in vaccines in the very near future.
*with apologies to The Who.