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U.S. Researchers Discovering What Makes Flu Viruses Lethal
In an animal study, none of a group of younger adult mice infected with a mild strain of a common virus died, but 14 percent of older infected mice did. The scientists then isolated and studied the mild virus from the infected older mice.
The mild viral strain did not affect young adult mice in previous tests, but the scientists found that after it had cycled through an older mouse host, it killed 43 percent of other younger mice later infected and 71 percent of other older mice later infected.
The scientists do not know how the viral strain mutated to mimic its virulent cousin in the older mouse hosts, but concluded that because of the world’s increasingly older population, the potential impact of age-associated viral evolution on public health warrants further investigation.
Bird Flu Panic Waning: Sense of Urgency Rising
The bird flu virus is still killing, still spreading, and still mutating. In recent weeks, it's reappeared in Korea and flared in Somalia, Cote d'Ivoire, Ukraine and Russia. The death toll among birds, both those infected and those killed to avoid the spread of the disease, exceeds half a billion. Deaths among humans are at 154, with nearly half of those occurring this year.
It's not just complacency that worries Kasai. The virus is changing. ...When bird flu first started killing people, about 80 percent of those infected died. The lethality has dropped to about 60 percent. Cases reported outside of Indonesia have a better than 50 percent chance of survival.
Normally, that's good news. But bird flu needs a living host to undergo the genetic mutations that can spread it from one person to the next. So the less lethal the virus, paradoxically, the more dangerous it becomes.