The Edmonton Sun n THURSDAY, JANUARY 9, 2014

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Fighting the flu
Vaccines are great at conquering stable viral infections such as Smallpoxs and polio. But when it comes to fighting flu viruses, it can be challenging — the flu virus can mutate and recombine, giving us a new strain, and leaving the vaccine one step behind.
If strain evolves to spread from person to person, a pandemic could arise Human host
Bird influenza A strain

Antigenic shift: The genetic change that enables a flu strain to jump from one animal species to another — including humans
Flu strains can jump from an animal host to humans in one of three ways:

Original bird host

1 2 31

No genetic change; jumps directly to humans No genetic change; jumps to intermediate host...

or chickens)

Intermediate hosts (e.g., pigs

Human influenza A strain

... then to humans

Duck passes flu strain to pig

2 3

Human flu passed to same animal

What’s the H and N mean? (as in H1N1 virus) H: Hemagglutinin (16 subtypes): Allows virus to bind to and enter a specific cell. This is usually what your immune system targets, so changes to this molecule allow the virus to avoid detection.

New influenza strain
N: Neuraminidase (9 subtypes): Allows newly created viruses to exit a cell and spread the infection.

Viruses infect same cell within host:

Types of flu

A

Most years, one or two strains of type A circulate as well as type B.

Usually more serious; most likely to mutate into new version people are not resistant to.

B

Usually less severe; smaller outbreaks; mainly affects young children.

C

5 4
Genes from both bird ... a new strain and human strains mix... is created

Passed to humans

Usually mild (similar to a cold).

Illustrations: Fotolia; Graphic News Source: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; National Institutes of Health
SUSAN BATSFORD, GRAPHICS EDITOR, TWITTER @SBATS1; INFOGRAPHIC BY MEGAN DINNER/QMI AGENCY

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