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Flu Genes

Written by Cara J. Hayden

Infectious disease experts in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health have traced the genetic roots of the H1N1 flu to an illness that sickened pigs at the Cedar Rapids Swine Show in Iowa in 1918. In the 91 years since, the virus has mixed with other flu strains, notably reappearing in human populations at a military base in New Jersey in 1976, then in China and the former Soviet Union the following year. “Studying the history of emergence and evolution of flu viruses doesn’t provide us with a blueprint for the future, but it does reveal general patterns, and this kind of information is critical if we are to be as prepared as possible,” says Donald S. Burke, a senior author of the study, professor and dean of public health, and holder of the UPMC-Jonas Salk Chair in Global Health. The findings were published in the July 16 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.