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The Hong Kong flu, also known as the 1968 flu pandemic, was a flu pandemic whose outbreak in 1968 and 1969 killed between one and four million people globally.

In September 1968, the flu reached India, northern Australia,Thailand, and Europe. The same month, the virus entered the United States and was carried by troops returning from the Vietnam War, but it did not become widespread in the country until December 1968.

It was caused by an H3N2 strain of the influenza A virus, descended from H2N2 through antigenic shift, a genetic process in which genes from multiple subtypes reassorted to form a new virus.The first recorded instance of the outbreak appeared on 13 July 1968 in British Hong Kong.There is an unconfirmed possibility that the outbreak actually began in mainland China before it spread to Hong Kong.

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It became apparent once the extent of antigenic variation in the virus was recognized that a new vaccine would be needed to protect against it.[48] However, production of the previously recommended vaccines in the US had concluded by July 1968, and supply of fertilized chicken eggs, in which flu vaccines are grown, was limited.[63] The first cultures of the virus were provided to manufacturers in August by the Division of Biologics of the National Institutes of Health for preliminary study. A strain isolated in Japan was sent to the US and, after showing greater potential for vaccine production, was given to manufacturers on 9 September.



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