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20 January 2012 08:54
Scientists have found that global flu pandemics often coincide with the weather phenomenon known as La Nina
Flu pandemics may be more likely after a climatic phenomenon known as La Nina has occurred, new research has suggested.
In the US, scientists have found that several outbreaks have occurred after changes in precipitation and humidity around the world.
During a La Nina event cool water is brought up to the surface of the eastern Pacific, causing these changes.
The last four pandemics - the Spanish Flu that began in 1918, the Asian Flu of 1957, the Hong Kong Flu of 1958 and the swine flu of 2009 - were all preceded by periods of La Nina conditions.
Despite this, Jeffrey Shaman from Columbia University in New York says that because the effects are very varied, there is not yet a "coherent picture."
Flu-carrying birds can change their migration pattern during the La Nina conditions. This means that it is difficult to predict which areas are safe from the virus, so when travelling abroad you should always have comprehensive
medical travel insurance.
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