Influenza is caused by highly variable RNA viruses belonging to the orthomyxovirus group. These viruses are capable of constantly changing the genes coding for their surface proteins as well as for their nonsurface proteins. The mechanisms responsible for these changes in type A influenza viruses include recombination (reassortment) of genes among strains, deletions and insertions in genes, and, frequently, point mutations. In addition, old strains may reappear in the population. Influenza viruses of types B and C appear to vary to a lesser degree. The mechanisms responsible for changes in these viruses are not well characterized.