Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Apr 25, 2009 in Health | 9 comments

Swine Flu Update & Planning

UPDATE: ScienceBlogs:

There will be an update from CDC later today and WHO’s expert committee established under the new International Health Regulations (IHR) meets via teleconference this morning North American east coast time at 10 am (4 pm Geneva time) to consider whether the swine flu situation merits declaring it “a public health event of international concern.” […]

One of the puzzling things about this outbreak is the stark contrast between the clinical and epidemiological picture in Mexico and the US, with reported Mexican cases winding up on ventilators and dying with severe lower respiratory disease while US cases have been mild with uneventful recoveries


Mexican authorities are saying that they have determined that 16 of 60 deaths are “swine flu,” with 44 more being tested. They have yet to confirm whether it is the same as the California/Texas cases, but that’s a bit irrelevant since either way it sounds like a very worrisome development. There are already a reported 930 plus cases, with schools closed in Mexico City and contemplation of closing government offices. Obama has been notified and the White House is following the situation. WHO and CDC have activated their emergency centers and there is consideration at WHO of increasing the pandemic alert level.

Things are changing too fast for any reasonable speculation at this point.

NYTimes:Image Hosted by

The new strain contains gene sequences from North American and Eurasian swine flus, North American bird flu and North American human flu, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. […]

Because of the situation, the World Health Organization planned to consider raising the world pandemic flu alert to 4 from 3. Such a high level of alert — meaning that sustained human-to-human transmission of a new virus has been detected — has not been reached in recent years, even with the H5N1 avian flu circulating in Asia and Egypt, and would “really raise the hackles of everyone around the world,” said Dr. Robert G. Webster, a flu virus expert at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

CNN, we’re due:

A pandemic is defined as: a new virus to which everybody is susceptible; the ability to readily spread from person to person; and the capability of causing significant disease in humans, said Dr. Jay Steinberg, an infectious disease specialist at Emory University Hospital Midtown in Atlanta. The new strain of swine flu meets only one of the criteria: novelty.

History indicates that flu pandemics tend to occur once every 20 years or so, so we’re due for one, Steinberg said.

“I can say with 100 percent confidence that a pandemic of a new flu strain will spread in humans,” he said. “What I can’t say is when it will occur.”


President Obama has been briefed about the illness, spokesman Reid Cherlin said, adding: “The White House is taking the situation seriously and monitoring for any new developments.”

The illness appeared to be primarily striking young, healthy adults, a highly unusual pattern that conjured images of the devastating 1918 flu pandemic.

The US and Mexican flu strains match.

Tamiflu works, as does Relenza. Flu is spread by coughs and sneezes. Smart prevention: WASH YOUR HANDS!

Resources to be aware of: CDC Human Swine Influenza Investigation. And

We recommend each household have three months of food, water (or purification capability), medications, and basic supplies on hand. Why Three Months?

On the morning shows today they’re saying we are prepared because we have been planning for a pandemic for years. But in 2007 when the CDC issued its guidelines I went to a session here in Georgia. In this state with over 8 million people we had only 22,000 hospital beds. And 16,800 nurses. The regional official hosting the session told us to stock up and get prepared now because when it hits (not if it hits) all bets are off. We’re on our own.

The community mitigation plan as reported on its 2007 release:

The chief strategy is to keep people physically apart as much as possible during the eight-to-10-week-long waves of illness.

States and metropolitan areas would decide when to invoke various measures, such as closing schools and banning concerts and sporting events. The guidance, notably, did not suggest restricting travel. Its authors believe that if a pandemic’s effects can be blunted or spread out over time, the essential functions of the economy may be able to continue largely unchanged. […]

Pandemic America would be an old-fashioned place. People would spend most of their time with close relatives and a few neighbors. They wouldn’t go to the movies, run to the supermarket on a whim, or hug people they barely know. The sick would be cared for at home unless they were near death. Everyone would shun the houses of the ill.

At the same time, many of today’s habits and capabilities would remain.