Why the ‘Hong Kong’ flu is wreaking so much havoc

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In 1968, scientists discovered a new strain of flu circulating around Hong Kong. The virus, though, didn’t stay put. It soon left Asia and turned into a proper pandemic, traveling around the globe and killing one million people worldwide.

It has the ability to mutate both during and between flu seasons (more so than other strains), rendering our preventative vaccines less effective.

[L]ike most years, scientists knew the Hong Kong flu would make an unwelcome appearance during the 2017-2018 flu season.

[B]y watching events unfold in Australia in 2017, where the Hong Kong flu was dominant, doctors knew what to expect and prepared as best as they could. But in this strain’s typical fashion, it has likely mutated, rendering our vaccines less effective.

Even though some of us may have been exposed to H3N2 in previous seasons (for example, the CDC identified six variants of H3N2 during the 2015-2016 season), the exterior of the virus — home to a variety of specific proteins — may have mutated too dramatically for us to have any substantive immunity from this earlier exposure.

While scientists seasonally do a pretty good job of predicting what will hit the U.S., much less is understood about why strains like the Hong Kong flu wreak havoc for a season or two and then become less dominant or disappear, only to return once again.

Read full, original post: We saw this deadly ‘Hong Kong’ flu coming, but no one could prevent its spread

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