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"Overall, it's a fairly typical flu virus," Richard Webby, a prominent researcher at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, says now.
But this story is not over yet. There are still important unanswered questions.
Most health experts believe swine flu hits children and pregnant women harder than seasonal flu, but it's not clear how much harder because officials don't know exactly how many have caught the swine flu and had only mild symptoms.
A mutation of the virus seen in two Dutch patients last month at first seemed to indicate the bug might be getting more dangerous, but the patients recovered and no further problems were reported. Researchers are watching for more such changes.
Over the summer, new infections spread, often hitting kids' summer camps. That's unusual because seasonal flu usually disappears in summer. But it wasn't a shock, either, because summer spread had been seen in flu pandemics of the past, like one in 1957, said Dr. Arnold Monto, a University of Michigan flu expert.
Experts predicted, correctly, that infections would jump in August and September, when schools and universities opened for fall classes.
Now, manufacturers are cranking out vaccine as fast as they can around the world, and the early shipments are trickling out.
Some health officials have speculated the worst may already be over for some parts of the country, particularly the Northeast. If the fall vaccination campaigns are effective, swine flu's winter season may not be as bad as the spring.
However, some experts think things could get worse. Some believe swine flu will be the dominant virus, as it has been during the Southern Hemisphere's winter, just ending. Others worry about the double-flu scenario in which the novel H1N1 virus strikes the young and the ordinary flu socks the old.
In either case, hospitals could be swamped. That's been causing a lot of hand-wringing, with a poll of 1,000 emergency room doctors this week finding that 90 percent are worried about their hospitals' ability to handle extra patients.
Whatever happens, health officials say it's been a memorable experience.
"There is a certain sense of history unfolding," Bell said.
On the Net:
World Health Organization swine flu site:
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention swine flu site: http://www.cdc.gov/H1N1FLU/
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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