Fran Kelly has a great interview with Dr Chris Smith, here, on ABC Radio National Breakfast. Smith is a virologist in Cambridge.
He politely disagrees with Laurie Garrett’s assessment yesterday: “Let’s not mess around, this virus is nasty…”. It still has a “mortality rate” associated with it – about 0.5%, which, according to Chris Smith, puts it on a par with Spanish Flu in 1918. It’s not, therefore, “completely wimpy”.
Fran Kelly then asks him about the danger of mutations. Smith agrees it’s a risk: “the thing about flu is that it’s a moving target…” . The virus uses RNA as its “genetic material”, which is just a single strand of material. This is unlike DNA, which has two strands – one a mirror image of the other. These strands act as an error checking system. In other words, flu, because it is RNA based, not DNA based, more easily makes mistakes as it passes on. So we will see new variants that are “potentially more virulent”.
At the moment Australia is is the “virological canary in the cage” – everyone’s watching our flu season here to see how things go.