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The influenza virus has been responsible for tens of millions of deaths in the past century—and it’s still a serious problem today. Last year, the flu killed 80,000 people in the US alone.

Yet much about influenza remains a mystery. The virus is constantly mutating, making it difficult to produce a “universal vaccine”—one that ensures lifetime immunity. It forces doctors across the world to constantly track the virus to better predict which strains are most likely to break out, building a new vaccine every year. 

But the challenges that influenza poses to medical science are only part of the battle. Vaccines, doctors admit, can be victims of their own success. Our generation has largely been shielded from the trauma of debilitating diseases all but eradicated by modern medicine. Without this lived experience, we risk becoming apathetic about vaccines, getting caught in the internet echo chamber, and perhaps unintentionally creating conditions for a future epidemic.

Quartz News sought out to answer the question: can we we beat the flu?

Quartz News is a weekly video series bringing you in-depth reporting from around the world. Each episode investigates one story, breaking down the often unseen economic and technological forces shaping our future.

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