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Swine Flu outbreak in Mexico and Texas

Influenza Virus
Influenza Virus

Over 1000 people in Mexico City have been infected with flu virus and at least 68 have died. The same strain of influenza virus has been found in Southern California and Texas, raising fears that the outbreak could develop into a global pandemic. Mexican health officials closed all schools, universities, museums and libraries to try to keep the infection from spreading. Authorities are also screening international travelers for flu symptoms before they leave the country.

Residents of Mexico are taking precautions against getting infected by staying at home, avoiding public places, and not greeting people with handshakes and kisses. People who must use public transportation have started wearing rubber gloves and face marks to avoid getting infected.

The influenza virus mutates easily. Small genetic changes allow the virus to adapt to new hosts and jump species. The H1N1 virus of this outbreak can infect pigs and birds. Recent outbreaks of flu have originated in Asia. It is unusual that the current epidemic started in North America. People who work in close proximity with chickens and pigs are more likely to get infected with flu viruses. A 2004 study in Iowa found that 20 percent of swine veterinarians and 3 percent of meatpackers had antibodies in their blood indicating they had been infected with swine flu.

There are no vaccines against this virus, although Oseltamivir (Tamiflu), which is an antiviral drug, appears to be effective at suppressing viral replication.
Learn about the structure of the Influenza Virus

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