This possibility is not out of the question and the probability of increased lethality is amplified by the unique composition of H1N1, a combination of Human, Swine and Avian Flu.
This story is likely far from over IMO.
Right. In fact, that was what happened in 1918: a mild but novel influenza evolved into a much more vicious killer. And I certainly don’t discount that possibility.
There are at least three other, similar possibilities:
1) It combines with the seasonal influenza and becomes Tamiflu-resistant. This would not be good news.
2) We produce a vaccine, but the virus mutates into a new form against which our vaccines are ineffective. This would not be good news.
3) It somehow combines with the highly pathogenic, utterly terrifying strain of H5N1 that has killed 77% of those who’ve caught it, to produce a highly-transmissible doomsday bug. I consider this to be a very unlikely scenario, but I doubt it’s outside of the realm of theoretical possibility. I will say I’m not particularly worried about it at this point, though, as I do consider it very unlikely.
Actually, if H5N1 goes big in the future, this flu could turn out to be a blessing in disguise, as we might learn many valuable lessons from fighting a relatively less-lethal strain.
Any way you cut it, though, the current flu pandemic is a big story, and unfortunately is only likely to get bigger.