Archive for Thursday, June 11, 2009

World Health Organization issues first pandemic alert in 41 years

June 11, 2009, 10:03 a.m. Updated June 12, 2009, 12:26 a.m.


Swine Flu Pandemic

An outbreak of H1N1 Swine Flu was reported in Mexico in April 2009. By the end of May, it had spread across the U.S., with all 50 states reporting cases.

— Swine flu is now formally a pandemic, a declaration by U.N. health officials that will speed vaccine production and spur government spending to combat the first global flu epidemic in 41 years.

Thursday’s announcement by the World Health Organization doesn’t mean the virus is any more lethal — only that its spread is considered unstoppable.

Since it was first detected in late April in Mexico and the United States, swine flu has reached 74 countries, infecting nearly 29,000 people. Most who catch the bug have only mild symptoms and don’t need medical treatment.

WHO chief Dr. Margaret Chan made the long-awaited declaration after the U.N. agency held an emergency meeting with flu experts and said she was moving to phase 6 — the agency’s highest alert level — which means a pandemic is under way.

“The world is moving into the early days of its first influenza pandemic in the 21st century,” Chan said in Geneva.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, the new head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in Atlanta that he does not expect widespread public anxiety in the United States as a result of the declaration, noting it came nearly two months after the virus was identified.

For many weeks, U.S. health officials have been treating it as a pandemic, increasing the availability of anti-viral flu medicines and pouring money into a possible vaccination program. And scientists have grown to understand that the virus is generally not much more severe than the seasonal flu.

“That helps to tamp down any fears that may be excessive,” Frieden said at a news conference — his first as CDC director.

But the virus can still be deadly and may change into a more frightening form in the near future, and so people should not be complacent, he added.

So far, swine flu has caused 144 deaths, compared with ordinary flu that kills up to 500,000 people a year.

The pandemic decision might have been made much earlier if WHO had more accurate information about swine flu’s rising sweep through Europe. Chan said she called the emergency meeting with flu experts after concerns were raised that some countries, such as Britain, were not accurately reporting their cases.

Chan said the experts unanimously agreed there was a wider spread of swine flu than was being reported.

She would not say which country tipped the world into the pandemic, but WHO flu chief Keiji Fukuda said the situation from Australia seemed to indicate the virus was spreading rapidly there — more than 1,300 cases were reported by Thursday.

In Chile, authorities have identified almost 1,700 cases to WHO.

Many health experts said the world has been in a pandemic for weeks but WHO became too bogged down by politics to declare one. In May, several countries urged WHO not to declare a pandemic, fearing it would cause social and economic turmoil. At the time, WHO said it would rewrite its pandemic definition to avoid announcing one.

But with the recent surge in cases across Europe, Chile, Australia and Japan, the agency was under increasing pressure to acknowledge a pandemic.

“This is WHO finally catching up with the facts,” said Michael Osterholm, a flu expert at the University of Minnesota.

David Ropeik, an expert in risk perception and communication at Harvard University, said the “soft buildup” to declaring swine flu a pandemic has been helpful.

“That allows people to get used to what is otherwise a scary word, understand the particulars of the disease, and that should mean reaction will be a little more information-based and a little less emotional,” Ropeik said in an e-mail.

WHO will now recommend that pharmaceutical companies make swine flu vaccine. The agency typically recommends which flu strains drug companies should use in the vaccines. In a global outbreak, WHO also advises whether companies should make pandemic vaccine.

The decision to make pandemic vaccine is a gamble. Most flu vaccine makers cannot make both regular seasonal flu vaccine and pandemic vaccine at the same time. That means they must decide which one the world will need more.


Flap Doodle 6 years ago

Watch the trade routes! (pre-emptive hysteria)

MarchSadness 6 years ago

Hey look, the LJW got a new swine flu file photo...just kidding ha! Get a new pic, it's getting old.

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

Calm down & have a sip of Gray Goose, girlfriend.

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

Hysteria can't be good for an elderly person who has damaged their health with alcohol and tobacco for many years. Best get your affairs in order, bub. You've one foot in the tomb and the other on a banana peel.

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

Heck, autie, you'll outlive all of us.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 6 years ago

"We don't know what's going to happen in the next 6 to 12 months."

(We don't know what's going to happen in the next 6 to 12 minutes.)

(In fact... )

(We don't know what's going to happen.)

bearded_gnome 6 years ago

hey, this article didn't mention the head of WHO, a very fine Chinese babe, think named Margaret Chan. she really does something to me: you give me fever when you kiss me fever when you hold me tight Fever In the morning Fever all through the night

Everybodies got the fever That is somethin you all know Fever is'nt such a new thing Fever start long ago

Romeo love Juliet Juliet she felt the same When he put his arms around her He said Julie baby your my flame

Now give me fever When were kissin Fever with that flame in you Fever I'm a fire Fever yeah i burn for you

Captain smith and pocahontas had a very mad affair When her daddy tried to kill him She said daddy oh don't you dare

He gives me fever With his kisses fever when he holds me tight Fever I'm his misses Daddy won't you treat him right

---traderoutes anyone?

bearded_gnome 6 years ago

it is so comforting knowing that Marion's done his due diligence and is on top of this situation.

he's such an expert on almost everything.

what would we do around here without him?

or, what would he do without his 100-proof brain lubricant?

I will note his lengthy comment above he's trying to temper his previous fear mongering now. compare previous postings by Marioni with that one, funny thing he's changed his song a bit.

what would marioni do if his Google went out?

Godot 6 years ago

If you choose to travel on public transportation now, you are asking for trouble.

A Royal Carribean cruise was denied harbor in Antigua and the Bahamas because 3 people on the cruise had flu symptoms.

Ray Nagin, the infamous New Orleans mayor during Katrina, and his wife, were quarantined in China because people on their flight displayed flu symptoms. Several countries are closing their borders.

If you travel abroad, you might find it difficult to return home.

Staycation 2009. Coming to a family near you.

Katara 6 years ago

Oh looky, the fear mongerer is back again. Better start wearing your mask 24/7, Marion, if you aren't already doing so.

bearded_gnome 6 years ago

Ray Nagin, the infamous New Orleans mayor during Katrina, and his wife, were quarantined in China because people on their flight displayed flu symptoms.

now why couldn't the Chinese have done this when Katrina was headed for New Orleans???

katara, you are not showing Marioni the proper reverence. he will now respond with lengthy posts of cut-and-paste, his own typos, and borderline foulmouthed comments about you!

the worst thing about Marioni is: he's so predictable, the ol' drunken bear.

hey Marioni! go take another drink! you're not as drunk as we think you oughta be.

gr 6 years ago

"and pouring money into a possible vaccination program." "Possible"? Why does this make me think of a Government Motors (GM) bailout?

"The decision to make pandemic vaccine is a gamble. Most flu vaccine makers cannot make both regular seasonal flu vaccine and pandemic vaccine at the same time. That means they must decide which one the world will need more."

Or is that "...they must decide which one that will be most profitable"?

Boston_Corbett 6 years ago

Marion, fyi, those N95 things are not mini bed pans.

Boston_Corbett 6 years ago

Marion: "It's all only fear-mongering on the part of the WHO."

Did you all just notice that after weeks of quoting WHO press releases to justify his scare mongering, Marion now blames the WHO for being the scare mongerer?

Marion studies his Rush Limbaugh debate lessons well

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