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Expert says virus 'very unstable'

A LEADING virologist has described the swine flu virus as "very unstable," meaning it could mix and swap genetic material when exposed to other viruses.

The new virus, which has infected 5,495 people in 30 countries and killed 63, has displayed great efficiency in spreading among people, said Guan Yi, a microbiologist with the University of Hong Kong.

"This virus has been around only a few months, it is very unstable ... and we know that its presence is dramatically increasing in human population, so the chance of it meeting with H5N1 is actually increased," Guan said in an interview yesterday.

"Both H1N1 and H5N1 are unstable so the chances of them exchanging genetic material are higher, whereas a stable (seasonal flu) virus is less likely to take on genetic material."

While swine flu appears to be mild so far, with many infected people recovering without treatment, the H5N1 has a mortality rate of between 60 and 70 percent.

Experts are fearful about the emergence of a hybrid which combines the killing power of the H5N1 with the efficient transmissibility of H1N1.

"Already it appears to be more virulent than seasonal flu because it is killing younger people," Guan said.


US 2,618(deaths 3)

Mexico 2,282 (deaths 58)

Canada 330

(deaths 1)

Costa Rica 8

(deaths 1)

Spain 95

Britain 55

Panama 16

France 13

Germany 12

Italy 9

Brazil 8

Israel 7

New Zealand 7

Japan 4

El Salvador 4

South Korea 3

Netherlands 3

Colombia 3

China 2

Sweden 2

Norway 2

Austria 1

Denmark 1

Switzerland 1

Poland 1

Portugal 1

Ireland 1

Australia 1

Argentina 1

Guatemala 1

Thailand 1

Finland 1

Cuba 1


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