June 24, 2009

Potential Swine Flu Mutations Discovered By German Scientists

Indications of a varied form of the H1N1 swine flu virus have been discovered and could potentially multiply aggressively in the next several months, according to scientists at Germany's federal agency for infectious diseases, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Head of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, Joerg Hacker, indicated that experts were concerned about the progress of the flu in Australia and South America.

At a news conference in Berlin, Hacker told the press "It's possible the virus has mutated. In autumn the mutated form could spread to the northern hemisphere and back to Germany."

Previously this month, the World Health Organization announced that swine flu had escalated to pandemic status.  More than 230 people worldwide have died out of 52,000 confirmed cases, recent figures indicate, predominantly in the United States and Mexico.

Generally, symptoms of swine flu are not very severe, however doctors fear the virus could mutate into something more potent.

Germany is ranked third in Europe for having the most cases of swine flu infection, 275 confirmed cases, according to WHO reports.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel informed the conference that Germany was as prepared as possible for any massive influx of cases.

"We are in contact about it internationally," she said. "Now all we have to do is coordinate internationally who should be vaccinated and how we should do it, in case things get worse."

With expectations the pandemic will linger, officially termed A(H1N1), the WHO has directed governments to make preparations for long-term combat. 

Although the virus is currently "pretty stable," WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said, it could potentially transform into a more threatening form, conceivably combining with the widespread H5N1 bird flu virus found in poultry.


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