Forecasting influenza epidemics? Look to Asia

Want to get a good forecast of the influenza strains Americans, Europeans and other people around the globe need to guard against? Then set up new surveillance efforts in East and Southeast Asian nations where influenza epidemics emerge and overlap before rippling around the globe. That's the conclusion of an international team of researchers who report their findings in Science magazine.

The researchers identified different strains of A (H3N2) as they arrived at new locations around the world over a five-year period. The results revealed that strains emerge in East and Southeast Asia and then about six to nine months later reach Europe and North America. Several months later still, the strains arrive in South America. Essentially, once the strains leave East and Southeast Asia "they enter an evolutionary graveyard."

"The ultimate goal of our collaboration is to increase our ability to predict the evolution of influenza viruses. This study is one step along that path and in particular highlights the importance of ongoing collaborations and surveillance in East and Southeast Asia, and of expanding these collaborations in the future," says Derek Smith of the University of Cambridge.

- check out the press release
- read the article in the Los Angeles Times