Influenza forecasting is very important to the medical community since influenza viruses, even in normal epidemic years, kill thousands of people around the world. So the prediction for new influenza viruses is very important. So the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control here in the United States and other international health agencies have monitoring stations around the world to analyze samples of influenza as they appear.
Historically, it seems that most new influenza viruses emerge in Asia, in the Far East, which is another thing that's unusual about the 1918 virus because everything we know historically suggested that it actually originated in the United States.
But it's thought that new influenza viruses emerge by this recombination mechanism, where different viruses are mixed together. And in the Far East, you have sort of cultural lifestyles in which ducks and pigs and humans co-habitate much more closely than they would in the West. So it's thought that that milieu actually fosters the production of new viruses.
So most of their monitoring actually occurs in China and other parts of the Far East. And then these laboratories isolate and analyze these viruses to try to learn how they differ from the previously recognized viruses. And if an incredibly different virus emerges, then they would have to fear that this might be the emergence of a new pandemic.