It is believed that cytokine storms were responsible for many of the deaths during the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed a disproportionate number of young adults. In this case, a healthy immune system may have been a liability rather than an asset. Preliminary research results from Hong Kong also indicated this as the probable reason for many deaths during the SARS epidemic in 2003. Human deaths from the bird flu H5N1 usually involve cytokine storms as well. Recent reports of high mortality among healthy young adults in the 2009 swine flu outbreak has led to speculation that cytokine storms could be responsible for these deaths. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have indicated that symptoms reported from this strain so far are similar to those of normal seasonal flu, with the CDC stating that there is "insufficient information to date about clinical complications of this variant of swine-origin influenza A (H1N1) virus infection."
Fouchier's study was greenlighted in advance by the Dutch Commission on Genetic Modification (COGEM), but that only means the panel is satisfied with safety procedures at Fouchier's lab
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