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April 25, 2009

Swine flu hits Mexico and western United States

HEALTH - Mexico is on high alert today as the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the fast moving swine flu outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” today, giving itself powers to ask member states to beef up surveillance for the deadly virus. The virus has already spread to the western United States.

The pandemic threat level is currently Phase 3 and WHO is contemplating raising it if the situation becomes more dire. WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan says the current outbreak of the swine flu virus has "pandemic potential."

As a new disease doctors and scientists are unsure how quickly swine flu can mutate, be spread or how deadly it is, so WHO is currently gathering as much information as possible to get an idea of how to control and prevent the disease from spreading.

Many new human swine flu cases — caused by a new influenza A H1N1 swine flu virus — were reported in several locations of the United States today. In New York City health officials found 8 probable cases in a school where a 100 students were sick this week. The U.S. Center for Disease Control in Atlanta are currently testing samples and say an answer is expected Sunday.

Kansas state health officials say they have confirmed two cases as well, bringing to 11 the confirmed cases in the United States. There has also been 7 cases in California and 2 in Texas. The viruses were first discovered in California about 10 days ago.

Confirmed outbreaks of respiratory illnesses in parts of Mexico — including densely populated Mexico City — so far has 20 confirmed deaths, nearly 50 suspected deaths and more than 1,000 suspected cases. More cases are believed to be unreported and health officials say thats the dangerous thing when people ignore the warnings and just think its a regular cold.

So far Canada has been left alone, with no probable cases, but there is growing concern the disease could jump across the border and cause an outbreak in Canadian cities. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office says the prime minister “was briefed this weekend on the flu outbreak and is aware of the situation", but hasn't acted to do anything to prevent the disease from coming to Canada.

Infectious disease experts say Canada is likely to see its first cases soon.

"We now apparently have widespread swine H1N1 throughout the United States which tells us that it is highly infectious, therefore having all the makings of the next pandemic strain," says Dr. Donald Low, chief microbiologist at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital. "It is just a matter of time before we recognize it here."

To date only the United States and Mexico have confirmed cases.

Containment however may no longer be possible however.

"We don’t think containment is feasible," says Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s interim deputy director for science and public health. "Having found virus where we’ve found it, we are likely to find it in many other places."

So far cases have had relatively mild symptoms similar to seasonal flu, but the problem lies in the current death rate of approx. 7%. It is so far unclear how it is spreading person to person, either by touch or whether it is airborne.

Scientists so far have determined it is a hybrid of avian flu, swine flu and human flu viruses, possibly the result of farmers feeding dead birds to pigs.

Scientists at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control have typed and sequenced virus samples from Mexico over the past several days.

"This is an interesting virus. It’s a brand new virus, not only to humans but to the world," said Dr. Frank Plummer on Friday, scientific director of Canada’s national lab.

So far testing has shown the viruses are resistant to two old flu drugs, amantadine and rimantadine, but is vulnerable to the flu antivirals Tamiflu and Relenza, which are in many national emergency stockpiles, including Canada’s and Mexico's.

The flu seems to be targeting people ranging from their mid 20s to mid 40s, whereas with regular flu typically young children and the elderly are at the highest risk.

Some observers have suggested that if this virus were to spark a pandemic that it might look like the disastrous Spanish Flu of 1918, which killed approx. 50 million people worldwide. Death rates among young adults were disproportionately high in that pandemic, the worst in recorded history. The Spanish Flu had a 50% illness rate (meaning half of the people were immune), it spread to 20% of the human population and had a death rate of 5% (or 2.5% if you count the people who are immune).

WHO has yet to determine the percentage of people who are immune to this new swine flu, if any.

2 comments:

  1. wow, how did this spread all the way to NYC so fast? That reminds me, I think now would be a good time to increase my daily dosage of Vitamin C and any other kind of immune system booster I can find

    ReplyDelete
  2. wa oooooooooooooo super stuff
    thnks 4 sharing man

    www.saitechzone.org

    ReplyDelete

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