Each year, influenza viruses cause outbreaks across the world. This is the reality of influenza - it causes a pandemic each year. Because influenza is a mutable virus (one that is prone to genetic change), a variety of causative strains are involved in flu outbreaks every year. Governmental agencies in the US and abroad monitor the strains of virus that are isolated from flu victims worldwide and use the data along with climate and travel patterns to predict which genetic version of the virus will be most likely to cause next year's influenza pandemic. The three most likely candidate viruses are used to create the flu vaccine we are all urged to take. Our "flu shot" then provides us with protection from the three most likely genetic versions of the flu to be encountered in the next year, yet there is an outside chance a "wild card" variant can cause disease in a vaccinated person. So the dynamics of influenza are very complex and interesting.
To help demonstrate how an influenza pandemic might spread across the State of Texas, researchers at the University of Texas and the Texas Department of State Health Services have created a computer simulation. The Texas Pandemic Flu Simulator allows registered users to control various parameters and run a simulation to follow the spread of the disease around the state for unvaccinated and vaccinated populations, along with administration of antiviral medications.
Watch here to see an overview of the Texas Pandemic Flu Simulator.
When you have watched the video, come back here to take a quiz over the simulation.