NEWS SCAN: Surgeon general nominated, past pandemic viruses evolved stealthily

Rural doctor and 'genius grant' winner nominated as surgeon general
President Barack Obama today nominated an Alabama family physician and MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" winner to be surgeon general. Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA, founded a health clinic to serve tiny Bayou La Batre, Ala., home to poor, mostly uninsured African-American and immigrant Asian fishermen, and rebuilt it three times after two hurricanes and a fire. She is a faculty member at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.
[Reuters story, Macarthur Foundation bio]

Viruses of past flu pandemics circulated undetected for years
The influenza strains that caused the three pandemics of the 20th century did not emerge suddenly, but circulated for months or years, researchers from Tennessee and China say in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Applying a "molecular clock" calculation to viral isolates from the 1918, 1957, and 1968 pandemics, the researchers estimate that each strain evolved through a series of reassortments that included at least one flu virus contemporaneously circulating in swine or birds. Current surveillance programs will not detect such reassortments, they say.
[PNAS abstract]

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