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WASHINGTON - The new H1N1 influenza virus bears a disturbing resemblance to the virus strain that caused the 1918 flu pandemic, with a greater ability to infect the lungs than common seasonal flu viruses, researchers reported on Monday.
Tests in several animals confirmed other studies that have shown the new swine flu strain can spread beyond the upper respiratory tract to go deep into the lungs — making it more likely to cause pneumonia, the international team said.
In addition, they found that people who survived the 1918 pandemic seem to have extra immune protection against the virus, again confirming the work of other researchers.
"When we conducted the experiments in ferrets and monkeys, the seasonal virus did not replicate in the lungs," said Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, who led the study.
The H1N1 virus replicates significantly better in the lungs."
The new swine flu virus has caused the first pandemic of the 21st century, infecting more than a million people, according to estimates, and killing at least 500. The World Health Organization says it is causing mostly moderate disease but Kawaoka said that does not mean it is like seasonal flu.
"There is a misunderstanding about this virus," he said in a statement. "There is clear evidence the virus is different than seasonal influenza."
Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) researcher Professor Mark Kendall heads a team testing the potency of mass vaccinations using only a fraction of the standard dose.
The project also targets cross-protection by delivering the seasonal vaccine to protect against challenge from the swine A H1N1 influenza virus.
Professor Kendall said this research used new nanopatch technology which does away with the needle and syringe and stimulated a potent immune response with a reduced dose.
"By accurately and reliably delivering the vaccine to the abundant immune cells, which are located just under of the surface of the skin, we are able to initiate a rapid and powerful immune response from the body, while using considerably less vaccine," Professor Kendall said.
"The beauty of the nanopatch is that it could enable large-scale rapid vaccinations in a cost effective manner that is currently not available with the needle and syringe.
RIO DE JANEIRO, July 13 (Xinhua) -- Health authorities of Brazil's southern state of Rio Grande do Sul on Monday confirmed the third death caused by A/H1N1 flu in the country.
The victim, a nine-year-old boy from the state's capital Porto Alegre, died on July 5, three days after being admitted to a hospital, news reports quoted the authorities as saying.
The boy suffered from chronic diseases, which collaborated to worsen his condition, officials said.
It was the second child to die from A/H1N1 in Brazil. Last Friday, the Health Ministry said an 11-year-old girl died from A/H1N1 on June 30 in Osasco, a city in the southeastern state of Sao Paulo.
In both cases, the diagnosis of A/H1N1 was made by postmortem examination.
The Porto Alegre case was also the second death by A/H1N1 flu in Rio Grande do Sul. Brazil's first victim of the disease, a 29-year-old truck driver from the small town of Erechim, died on June 28.
QUITO, July 13 (Xinhua) -- Ecuador reported on Monday the third death in the country of the A/H1N1 influenza, bringing the total to 213 in the country, according to Ecuadorian Health Ministry.
Ecuadorian Health Minister Caroline Chang told the press that the death of the patient was confirmed after reporting the first two deaths on Friday.
The third patient was a male of 72 years old who died on Sunday at 4:30 a.m. local time (0930 GMT) in the public Hospital of Riobamba.
Chang said that the patient was assisted by a private doctor, but since he did not improve his condition he was taken to the intensive care unit of Riobama hospital, where he was diagnosed with the H1N1 flu.
"Despite the doctors gave him Tamiflu for many days, the patient did not resist. The patient also had cancer," Chang said.
Ecuador reported its first confirmed case of H1N1 flu on May 15. The most affected province continues being Guayas with more than 100 confirmed cases.
SANTIAGO, July 12 (Xinhua) -- The death toll caused by the A/H1N1 flu in Chile reached 26, the country's Public Health Agency said on Sunday.
The latest death case was a 48-year-old man identified as Omar Bernardino Uribe Reyes, a resident in the southern city of Puerto Montt, said a statement of the agency.
Uribe had been hospitalized for 10 days at a clinic in Chile's capital after a medical center in Los Lagos, some 700 km south of Santiago, diagnosed his illness.
As of Saturday, 9,549 people have been infected with the A/H1N1 virus, 406 of them in serious condition, said the agency.
SAN JOSE, July 12 (Xinhua) -- Costa Rica confirmed the country's fifth death case caused by the A/H1N1 flu on Sunday.
The dead, a 25-year-old woman, was 22-week pregnant with a pair of twins, Costa Rican Deputy Health Minister Ana Morice told local media.
She miscarried a few hours before she died Saturday at a hospital in the capital, Morice said.
Costa Rica has confirmed 351 cases of flu infections so far, and the government was worried about the rising trend of spreading, said Morice, noting that the authorities would strengthen preventive measures consequently.
Costa Rica reported its first A/H1N1 flu death on May 9.