Cracking the Code: Why Flu Pandemics Come At the End of Flu Season
Hypothetical seasonal flu epidemic spread (not based on real or simulated data) is depicted here with the colors indicating regions currently infected with seasonal flu (red), refractory and immune to pandemics (purple), and recovered and currently susceptible to a novel pandemic (blue). White lines depict the global flight network. Image Credit: Spencer J. Fox

You might expect that the risk of a new flu pandemic — or worldwide disease outbreak — is greatest at the peak of the flu season in winter, when viruses are most abundant and most likely to spread. Instead, all six flu pandemics that have occurred since 1889 emerged in spring and summer months. And that got some University of Texas at Austin scientists wondering, why is that?