Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Swine Flu, Scared Yet?

I'm not scared, but could be considered concerned by this point. After the initial media blitz, things have settled down and you could be forgiven for having forgotten that we have a potential pandemic in our midst.

But things are not what they seem.

An electron microscope image shows a swine flu virus culture obtained from a California patient, in an image obtained from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta
The WHO (not the British rock band) are considering declaring a pandemic at this point, based on the article above. There was a strong uptick in cases worldwide in the early part of June, and this is not the flu season!

Now this is not necessairily something worth getting excited over, until we factor in the fact that the Spanish Flu in 1918 started mildly enough in the off-season as well. That's what makes things interesting, because (a) we are due for a pandemic from what I have read, and (b) this flu is behaving very similarly to the 1918 outbreak.

It's the second round of the Spanish flu that had the lethal genes in it. That mutation killed millions worldwide.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you get all freaked out over this ... but do follow simple precautions. The usual hand washing etc will help. But for heaven's sake, get your flu shot as winter (i.e. flu season) approaches. The flu vaccine this year will obviously contain this flu and should be at least 80% effective. If you happen to be feeling poorly, remember that there are antivirals like Tamiflu that can be effective if taken early enough.

A nurse holds a box of the antiviral drug, Tamiflu which is effective in combating swine flu if the treatment is given early enough, at hospital in Yogyakarta, Central Java, Indonesia, Wednesday, April 29, 2009. (Slamet Riyadi/Associated Press)

Note that those who catch this first version of the flu will be immune to it should it return in a more virulent form. In 1918, most of the first wave survived. Not so lucky, the second and subsequent waves ...

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