With the swine-origin H1N1 influenza outbreak now officially a global pandemic, Gabriele Neumann, Takeshi Noda and Yoshihiro Kawaoka take stock of our knowledge of the emergence of the H1N1 virus, and compare its antigenic and pathologic properties with those of previously circulating influenza strains. They conclude that the world was ill-prepared to cope with the pandemic. On the prospects for better preparedness in future, they say that although much has been learned, we need to know more about interspecies transmission, reassortment and human-to-human transmission. A Nature paper published online last week, underlines the importance of surveillance of flu viruses in swine as a means of detecting strains with pandemic potential.
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