Reporter's Notes: Predicting Swine Flu

The last time we reported on Swine flu, or 2009 H1N1 virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was considering whether or not to invest in a vaccine for the new influenza strain.

Now, after several delays, the first batches of vaccines -- first, a nasal spray version, then an injectible vaccine -- is due to hit hospitals and clinics across the country (and around the world) in the first weeks of October. It's up to each state to decide which groups to prioritize, but pregnant women, young children, and those with certain preexisting conditions such as asthma may be considered priorities. Over the following weeks, the flow of vaccines, produced at five different labs across the country, will steadily increase until, officials hope, any American who chooses to be vaccinated has access to a dose.

To learn more about where to get the vaccine, call: (800) CDC-INFO (800 232-4636) or visit www.cdc.gov/flu.

Here's another good resource for basic H1N1 vaccine info.

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In this piece, we profile work taking place at the University of California, San Francisco's Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center. This lab is home to the ViroChip - a powerful viral diagnostic tool that won its inventor, Joseph DeRisi, a MacArthur "Genius" Grant back in 2004. TheViroChip and other tools are critical to the fight against 2009 H1N1 . Among other things, they may be the first to alert us should the virus mutate into a form that's resistant to the leading antiviral drug, Tamiflu. (Several cases of Tamiflu-resistant 2009 H1N1 have already been reported, but so far they appear to be isolated incidents.)

They'll be looking out for another important mutation too: That's if 2009 H1N1 changes enough so that the current vaccine for it -- the one coming out in October -- no longer works. (This kind of subtle virus mutation is the reason we need new flu vaccines every year.) So far, this does not seem to be the case.

Listen to the Predicting Swine Flu radio report online.


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