As we enter another autumn season the memories of summer begin to fade and our minds turn towards the impending winter as the leaves begin to crisp and fall. This time of year also marks the appearance of flu-shots and news stories about the newest and scariest strains of influenza virus. Recently, there have been multiple reports in the US about a new form of swine flu that has been circulating at county fairs as people and pigs enter close proximity (see Related Articles after the jump).
Why is a strain of flu that infects pigs or dangerous or even relevant for people? As it turns out, from the point of view of the influenza virus a pig, bird, or human are not terribly different. Furthermore, pigs are also susceptible to certain strains of bird flu just like humans and can be multiply infected with different strains that could be human, avian, or porcine in origin. What this means is that pigs are an ideal breeding ground for reassortant viruses and their subsequent antigenic shift, and this is where things get dangerous.
Click through to find out more about these potentially dangerous reassortant flu viruses… Continue reading