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Tracking H1N1 From Space

December 28, 2009, 5:10 PM by Kelli Grant

Tracking H1N1 From Space
If you haven't had the H1N1 flu by now, you probably know somebody who has. Within a matter of months, the virus has exploded in the human population, infecting millions worldwide. But is this just the beginning of our problems with H1N1?

Experts are tracking the virus with satellite technology - and they say another even more dangerous type of H1N1 may already be popping up.

They're getting back to normal now, but the H1N1 flu wiped out most of the Wheeler family for weeks. Mom Julie even battled it herself while trying to care for her son Brett and daughter Brooke.

"Just completely worn out and tired, exhausted...lethargic. And that's just what we were seeing in the kids, too," Wheeler said.

To some, the Wheelers may be just three of the millions who've had the flu. But to scientists, their cases are worth tracking.

Doctor Dan Janies is plotting and mapping cases of H1N1 all over the world - even down to street level. It's not that he's keeping track of the number of cases - but the different types of H1N1 flu.

"Basically H1N1 has 2 branches. There is the seasonal branch, which has been around for a while. And there is this pandemic branch, which emerged last April and has now spread around the world," said Dan Janies of Ohio State University Medical Center.

In fact, the original H1N1 was first documented in 1918. Though rare, the virus has been around ever since. Its cousin - a new form of H1N1 - is what's making everyone sick today. The good news is, so far, the new version can be controlled by medicine... like Tamiflu.

The bad news, the original version is drug-resistant. And experts worry if too many of these cases happen too close to each other, H1N1 will mutate to a 3rd form. And that's why they're tracking it so closely.

"Where important mutations are happening, are very important to public health officials, so we try to put them in a geographic context as well," Janies said.

It's information they need to know to try and predict what this virus may do next.

Scientists from all over the world are making note of H1N1 cases to help keep track. A new super computer is going on line at Ohio State University Medical Center to keep track of the virus as it changed.

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