Countries race to contain swine flu outbreak

New Zealand reported suspected swine flu cases Monday in a second group of teenage students returning from Mexico, as Asian nations with potent memories of SARS and bird flu outbreaks screened travelers for fever with thermal scanners.

Hong Kong assigned a team of scientists to find a quick test for the latest virus to raise global fears of a pandemic, following confirmed human cases of the disease in Mexico, United States and Canada.

More than 100 people in Mexico are believed to have died from the new flu and more than 1,600 sickened, prompting widespread school closures and other measures.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine

4 comments on “Countries race to contain swine flu outbreak

  1. drjoan says:

    Epidemic: When the number of cases of an infectious disease exceeds the number expected.
    Pandemic: When the cases of an infectious disease spread from one nation in the world to several others.
    I guess the Swine flu falls into the classification of a Pandemic. But an epidemic? Perhaps.
    What concerns me is the number of dead in Mexico. I certainly feel for the 100 or so who have died (and their families) but in a population of over 20 MILLION (!) it hardly seems to be so newsworthy as to be the primary story on each of the three major networks’ evening news on BOTH days of the weekend! And to dominate the first fifteen minutes of each program!
    My concern is that we are being primed for this “disaster” at what cost? What else is happening that we are NOT hearing about? Is this a case of the tail wagging the dog?
    Simple handwashing techniques and covering one’s nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing are the clues to prevention. Masks worn below the nose or around one’s neck–or simply worn straight through for three or four days!–are not the answer. They only make people FEEL like they’re doing something useful.
    Even in Portland OR the public health folks were suggesting that there was no need to stock up on masks!
    And the idea that if one feels ill he or she should go to the doctor will only encourage sick folks to gather in a small room with other otherwise compromised individuals.
    I don’t usually rant but there MUST be something other than the Swine Flu that is newsworthy!

  2. BlueOntario says:

    The concern about 100 people in a population of 20 millions is not the ratio itself, which as you point out is small, it is about the way influenza viruses mutate and infect. The red flag goes up because we have a new virus that [i]is[/i] deadly and easily spread among humans. In addition the virus can continue to mutate, perhaps becoming more virulent. The questions that need to be asked at this point are: how are infections and fatalities spreading among different demographic groups (under the assumption that they are); and, have medications been found effective and at what point in infection? Following up the last, are there enough doses of medicine to go around if…?

    I agree with you about handwashing and using tissues, but my experience with my adult coworkers in healthcare is that such advice often falls on deaf ears. With children the results are halved.

  3. Jeff Thimsen says:

    How many die of influenza in an average year? This story lacks context.

  4. Ad Orientem says:

    There are several major issues that makes this a cause for concern. First the mortality rate appears to be around 7-8%. That’s fairly high for influenza. Secondly this bug has animal DNA in it. This makes it more resistant to normal treatments and indicates a tendency to mutate. Thirdly the danger of mutation is significant. The 1918 pandemic ws in part a variation of swine flu. It also came in waves. The first one hit in the spring of 1918 and had a very high morbidity rate (degree of infectiousness) but was not especially noteworthy other than as a nasty late season flu. It made huge numbers of people sick but had largely disappeared by mid summer. Then in September it returned.

    Some where in the intervening period it had mutated. The Fall wave (roughly September through early December in the United States) was highly lethal. About 700,000 people died mostly during this time frame. There was a third wave in the winter of 1919 but that was mostly overseas. The worldwide death toll is believed to be conservatively 50 million.

    Finally, like the 1918 pandemic and unlike the 1957 and 1968 ones, this one seems to be striking normally healthy young people in their late teens through late thirties much more so than the usual victims of influenza (the very young and the very old). That is disquieting.

    Christ is risen!