In her first extensive media interview since alerting the world to a potential flu pandemic nine days ago, Margaret Chan, the agency’s director-general, told the Financial Times that the end of the flu season in the northern hemisphere meant an initial outbreak could be milder but then a second wave more lethal, as happened in 1918.
But Ms Chan warned that an apparent decline in mortality rates outside and within Mexico did not mean the pandemic was ending.
“We hope the virus fizzles out, because if it doesn’t we are heading for a big outbreak.” But she said: “I’m not predicting the pandemic will blow up, but if I miss it and we don’t prepare, I fail. I’d rather over-prepare than not prepare.”
UPDATE from Bloomberg:
“The prospect of reassortment is always there with influenza,” Schuchat said in the conference call today. The agency is especially concerned that the new flu, already a risk of causing sickness and death worldwide, may mutate in human or pig populations, she said.
Pigs are an ideal breeding ground for new forms of the flu, including the new H1N1 virus, Nancy Cox, chief of the flu division at the CDC’s Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, said at the briefing. The running hypothesis among scientists has been that the new flu -- a combination of four strains from swine, birds and humans -- started inside a pig, she said.