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Germ Sleuths Stalk Origin of Killer Flu

"I've got some bad news."

The voice on the conference call last week was Frank Plummer, a Canadian scientist who had just spent 24 hours analyzing virus samples from 51 seriously ill people in Mexico.

The news: Seventeen people carried a completely new type of flu virus, one which had its origin in pigs. Flu from swine, which can be fatal, has rarely made the jump to humans -- much less appeared in so many people at once. Within minutes, Mexico's health minister grabbed a red-telephone hotline to President Felipe Calderón. "Mr. President, I need to see you urgently. It's a matter of national security."

A picture is now emerging of how U.S. and Mexican officials, with a key assist from a Canadian government lab, first realized they faced a new type of disease and began racing to isolate its earliest origins. Until recently, Mexico was widely assumed to be ground zero. Now, however, some California doctors are questioning that.
 
 

Comments (1)

  1. Informative story. However, most interesting are the maps suggesting the potential path(s) that the virus has taken leaving Mexico. The maps are provocative and in the weeks to come we will see if the map model proves true. Must read for all students interested in the epi of this new virus.

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