The bad news is that, stringent counter-measures and all, China saw it’s first reported case of domestic swine flu today. But even with the latest H1N1 strain making it’s first appearance in Venezuela, Paraguay and several other South American nations this week, there may be more cause for celebration than outright terror. The virus doesn’t seem to be sweeping the southern hemisphere, where flu season is in full swing, with beyond normal levels of contagion.

Meanwhile, research labs in the US and UK have both successfully produced “starting strains” of the young virus. These strains, which hybridize the new flu with extant viral strains, are the first steps toward a vaccine for the disease. The two existing strains are being shipped to labs throughout the world allowing researchers to start developing ways to fight the newest H1N1 virus. And with Australian researchers nearing completion on a third starting strain, the chances that we’ll have a functioning vaccine sometime in the near future are actually pretty good.

And while a vaccine is great news, quickly identifying viral outbreaks is about to get a lot easier, thanks to research firm Ostendum. The company has produced a prototype device that can detect the presence of a particular virus in just minutes. Seemingly straight out of James Bond movies, the gadget is light weight and portable, and can also be used to uncover specific bacteria or proteins with just a small sample of blood or saliva. If all goes well, the company plans to have every hypochondriac’s handheld best friend to market by late next year.

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