Darwin Gets Swine Flu: The YouTube Edition

By Carl Zimmer | December 12, 2009 1:39 pm

This fall I gave a number of talks about the flu, and how evolutionary biologists are helping to make sense of this vexing virus. The University of British Columbia, where I spoke in November, has posted the lecture I gave there on YouTube. For ease of viewing, I’ve embedded all six segments of the talk below.

A few caveats. A couple labels got lost in the conversion of my Keynote to Powerpoint during the preparation of the video. And the numbers I gave for the 2009 H1N1 flu are now a bit out of date. As of this week, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that about 50 million people in the U.S. have come down with the new flu strain since it first hit the country in April. 2009 H1N1 is responsible for just about all the flu so far this year. For the past few weeks it has been subsiding, but it may come back for another whack at us in a few weeks. Meanwhile, there hasn’t been any seasonal flu yet.  Of the people who contracted 2009 H1N1 in the United States, about 10,000 have died. (As I mention in the talk, 36,000 people a year die of the seasonal flu in the U.S.)

And now, without further ado, I give you the flu!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

Comments (7)

  1. Loved the talk at UMass. I wanted to ask if there were any advantages to getting vaccinated after already having the Flu? Do I only now have antibodies for the specific type of flu that I got?

    [CZ: Glad you liked the talk, Luke. As for advice about getting a vaccine, I'm going to defer to your doctor.]

  2. Daniel J. Andrews

    Hm, Luke asked my question too. By the time there was enough vaccine available for my low risk category, I’d already had the flu and now I wasn’t sure if there was any purpose in getting the shot or not. I wouldn’t think so, but guess I’ll talk to the health folks.

  3. Dan

    Why is the H1N1 different this year? It appears to me that it was here for years, and nobody took notice.

    This site (MN dpt of health) shows that vaccines commonly covered for variants of this strain.

    http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/flu/stats/weeklyold.html

    [CZ: Dan, "H1N1" refers to the families to which two surface proteins on the virus belong. But the original H1 and N1 proteins have evolved into lots of related forms, which have then been mixed into new combinations, and then been mixed in turn with other versions of the flu's other genes. This picture sums up what is new about this year's virus--old parts in new combinations.]

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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

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