Advertisement

Archive for Friday, October 16, 2009

Swine flu 6 months later: Relief, but winter looms

October 16, 2009

Advertisement

Carl Dechiara, a registered nurse, prepares the H1N1 vaccine Thursday at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland. The Clinic began giving H1N1 vaccine to frontline employees who provide direct patient care.

Carl Dechiara, a registered nurse, prepares the H1N1 vaccine Thursday at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland. The Clinic began giving H1N1 vaccine to frontline employees who provide direct patient care.

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.

— It was six months ago that scientists discovered an ominous new flu virus, touching off fears of a catastrophic global outbreak that could cause people to drop dead in the streets. Doomsday, of course, never came to pass.

Now that the initial scare over the swine flu has subsided, health officials warn we are not out of danger yet.

“We’ve got many, many months ahead of us where we don’t know what will happen and we need to take the best steps we can to protect ourselves,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said last week. “Our biggest concern is that the virus could change, mutate to become more deadly.”

With winter approaching, another fear is a one-two punch in which a resurgent swine flu batters young people before the vaccine is widely available, while the ordinary flu strikes the elderly. Also, emergency doctors are worried about the strain on ERs and hospitals.

To date, swine flu has hospitalized hundreds of thousands of people around the world and killed at least 4,500, including at least 600 in the United States. At least 81 U.S. children have died, including many who had no underlying health problems.

The CDC was the first to identify the new flu. It was on April 15 and 17 that the agency determined that nasal samples from two children in Southern California contained a swine flu virus that had never been seen before. It was found to contain bits of bird and human flu.

At first the cases represented more of a scientific puzzle than a public health threat. The two children recovered, but investigators were perplexed by how they got it, since the two kids had not been in contact with each other or with pigs.

But within a week, the situation became more dramatic, when testing linked the two children and a handful of subsequent U.S. cases to hundreds of illnesses in Mexico City. Mexican authorities closed schools, museums, libraries and theaters to stop the spread of the disease as initial reports suggested it was killing as many as one in 15 of those infected — a horrifying death rate more than three times higher than the terrible flu pandemic of 1918-19.

A series of bad and good news followed. First, the bad: It quickly became clear that the virus was spreading not only in Mexico and border regions of the United States, but around the world. What’s more, studies indicated the millions of seasonal flu shots administered the previous winter offered no protection against the unusual new virus.

But then came some good news:

• While the flu vaccine was no help, the antiviral medication Tamiflu reduced the severity of illness if taken right after symptoms appeared.

• People 55 and older, who suffer and die the most from seasonal flu each year, seemed mostly to be spared by the new virus. Scientists credited some immunity that they had perhaps picked up from exposure decades ago to a similar-enough virus or vaccine.

• Additional investigation in Mexico suggested that many people had suffered only mild illness. Those cases were not counted in initial reports, meaning the death rate was much, much lower than originally estimated.

In the United States, some of the initial response plans for the new swine flu, an H1N1 strain, envisioned “people dropping dead in the streets,” recalled Dr. Beth Bell, a CDC epidemiologist who has been a leader in the agency’s response.

The disease kept spreading, and eventually the World Health Organization declared it the first global flu pandemic in 40 years. But even before then, U.S. health officials had downgraded some of their prevention advice, such as the call for schools to shut down for two weeks if any students became infected.

“Overall, it’s a fairly typical flu virus,” Richard Webby, a prominent researcher at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, says now.

But this story is not over yet. There are still important unanswered questions.

Most health experts believe swine flu hits children and pregnant women harder than seasonal flu, but it’s not clear how much harder because officials don’t know exactly how many have caught the swine flu and had only mild symptoms.

A mutation of the virus seen in two Dutch patients last month at first seemed to indicate the bug might be getting more dangerous, but the patients recovered and no further problems were reported. Researchers are watching for more such changes.

Comments

gr 4 years, 6 months ago

"This flu will infect and kill more ...blah, blah, blah"

So why do those reasons mean you should get vaccinated?

"The technology used in this vaccine has been around for over 60 years. To think it “has not been tested” is idiotic."

Smoking has been around for many years. Nicotine is only "flavoring". Mercury was used in medicine for many years. Wait. It still is.

Why do you want us to believe if something has been happening for many years, it must mean it is safe?

Vaccinations aren't "safe". Just read all the news about pig flu vaccinations. Most all have qualifying disclaimers about "safe".

If it or vaccines have so been tested, could you show me some scientific research showing how vaccinations are safe and effective?

"A new vaccine is developed every year." True. And did any work? And I mean scientifically and not just, 'Well, not many got sick this year so shorely it must have worked.'

Before you claim polio as showing effectiveness of vaccines, how was polio determined before the vaccine, how was it determined afterwards, why the change in both symptoms and length of time? Why was polio declining before the vaccination?

0

Boston_Corbett 4 years, 6 months ago

Yup, watch those trade routes. Coming to a bar near Marion soon.

But in a serious vein, parents should be getting their children vaccinated!!

This flu will infect and kill more young people because they have no immunity. More of the "normally anticipated" flu deaths will be children, not the aged. And many more people will be infected by this flu (2 to 3 times the normal seasonal flu numbers). In a normal flu season, about 80 children die annually. We are already at that number and "flu season" hasn't even started.

No, this flu is not particularly more lethal than typical flu, in that it will kill at about the same rate, but 1) it will infect many more people thus increasing total deaths (2 to 3 x), and 2) the people who will die will more likely be the young, not the people in the nursing homes.

So while Marion is still an idiot Armageddon alarmist and should be reminded of it, people, and especially children, should get their H1N1 shot when they can.

Ignoring vaccinations for children is like playing Russian Routlette with their health. The technology used in this vaccine has been around for over 60 years. To think it "has not been tested" is idiotic. A new vaccine is developed every year.

0

Flap Doodle 4 years, 6 months ago

We're all gonna die! Probably most of us won't die from H1N1. Now wash your hands and go watch the trade routes.

0

gr 4 years, 6 months ago

"including at least 600 in the United States"

Just five minutes ago it was 100. If we do calculations as the global warmists, the whole United States will be dead by morning!

0

Commenting has been disabled for this item.