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New flu superbug could be on the horizon, say scientists

Posted On Tue, February 23, 2010

While the H1N1 virus scare may finally be past its peak as cases begin to decline across the country, Americans could possibly be forced to deal with another deadly hybrid flu bug that combines existing virus strains, researchers say.

According to a new paper published in the February 22 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a group of scientists has found that there is a possibility that a strain of the Avian - or H5N1 - flu virus could mutate with the seasonal flu to create a potential superbug that could affect humans in 2010.

"With the new pandemic H1N1 virus, people sort of forgot about H5N1 avian influenza. But the reality is that H5N1 avian virus is still out there," Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a virologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said, according to HealthDay News. "Our data suggests that it is possible there may be reassortment between H5N1 and pandemic H1N1 that can create a more pathogenic H5N1 virus."

After combining the Avian flu - which was traditionally not been too contagious among humans - with the seasonal flu and creating 254 mutated strains that were injected into mice, a number of strains were found to combine both strains' traits and be both deadly and easily transmissible to humans.

With even a risk of such a disease becoming reality, consumers should be sure their health insurance coverage covers them appropriately, and make sure to seek out other plans if their coverage is lacking.

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