Influenza is a formidable enemy. A leading cause of death in the United States, the disease kills more than 36,000 people each year. It's also tricky -- though the flu virus itself is a simple organism, it is able to fool our cells into making new viruses -- which make us sick.
But Air Force Research Lab scientists in San Antonio are battling back. Every day they take in thousands of samples from all over the world and analyze the specimens for influenza, unraveling the genetic code to compare it to the strains used to create the current vaccine. As these fingerprints keep changing, so must the vaccines so we can all stay healthy. These scientists recently helped identify a new strain of influenza A -- called H1N1, or swine flu, and this major achievement helped lead to a new vaccine that will save thousands of lives this fall.