Monday, April 27, 2009

Swine Flu Outbreak - Global race is on to contain it

The world is yet again faced with another scare. This time it is the Swine flu. I think this could be the same as the Nipah virus Malaysia had a few years ago which resulted in many human deaths among pig handlers and farmers and the culling of pigs and shutting down of pig farms in Negri Sembilan and those in and around Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere in the country.

The picture below shows a worker cleaning St. Francis Preparatory School in New York on April 26, 2009 after the swine flu was confirmed in eight students, prompting the federal government to declare a public health emergency across the United States.



The global race is on to contain swine flu outbreak. U.S. declares state of emergency as 20 cases confirmed; 86 dead in Mexico.

Excerpts from MSNBC:
Mexico, the outbreak’s epicenter with up to 103 suspected deaths, canceled some church services and closed markets and restaurants. Few people ventured onto the streets, and some wore face masks. Canada became the third country to confirm cases, in six people, including some students who — like some New York City spring-breakers — got mildly ill in Mexico. Countries across Asia promised to quarantine feverish travelers returning from flu-affected areas.

New Zealand said 13 students who took a school trip to Mexico “likely” had swine flu. Spanish authorities had seven suspected cases under observation. A New York City school where eight cases are confirmed will be closed Monday and Tuesday.

China, Russia and Taiwan began planning to quarantine travelers arriving from flu-affected areas if they have symptoms. Italy, Poland and Venezuela advised citizens to postpone travel to affected parts of Mexico and the U.S.

The U.S. hasn’t advised against travel to Mexico but does urge precautions such as frequent hand-washing while there, and began questioning arriving travelers about flu symptoms.

CDC officials said Sunday they would begin handing out “yellow cards” at airports with information about signs, symptoms and ways to reduce the chance of acquiring the virus.

Worldwide, attention focused sharply on travelers. More..


is Swine flu? Get a better understanding of Swine flu and prevention tips from this Swine flu Q&A as well as from here about infectious diseases .

I just bought some ham so naturally I am concerned but I need not be because according to the US CDC, people cannot become infected by eating pork or pork products. Also, cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160 deg Fahrenheit kills the virus as well as other bacteria. Most cases of human infection occur when patients have direct contact with pigs.

However, human-to-human infections do occur similar to the way the human seasonal flu virus is transmitted — through coughing, sneezing and coming in contact with a person or object with the virus which accounts for the need of wearing a mask.

What are the symptoms?
Just to be safe, if you have flu-like symptoms, it is best to see a doctor. Symptoms are similar to those of the regular human influenza virus: fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some who have been infected with the swine flu also reported having a runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Back home in Malaysia, the Health Ministry is fully prepared to deal with any spread of the swine flu and has placed its officers at all travel entry points in Malaysia to screen travellers suspected of the illness.

Source: MSNBC

9 comments:

  1. In 1918:

    In large U.S cities, more than 10,000 deaths per week were attributed to the virus. It is estimated that as many as 50% of the population was infected, and ~1% died. To compare, in "normal" (interpandemic) years, it is estimated that between 10-20% of the population is infected, with a .008% mortality.

    The fact the current 'swine flu' has shown to be contagious is alarming. So far the virus has shown to have a 6% to 6.3% mortality rate. It may not seem like much, but please consider the following: The deadly influenza panic in 1918 had a mortality rate of under 1%.

    This virus went on to kill tens of thousands of healthy people a day in large cities and up to 100 million people world wide.

    Viruses, like this strain of swine flu, kill their host by over-stimulating active immune systems that are robust and healthy. That is why the victims in Mexico were between the ages of 20 and 45.

    Some have said that no one in the United States have died from the virus, so we need not worry. Experts say it is only a matter of time. The virus is not prevalent enough to reach statistical significance in the United States, with only a handful of confirmed cases. 93.7% of all Mexicans with the virus recovered.

    More cause for worry: The 1918 virus started off 'mild' before it mutated into a raging storm. It also does not mean we will see millions of deaths. It is too early to draw sweeping conclusions. Nevertheless, there is potential for a disastrous pandemic. If 50% of Americans catch this flu in the next two years, and the mortality rate stays at 6.3%, we would witness 20+ million deaths.

    This strain of virus is more potent and more deadly than the virus that hammered the world in 1918 and 1919. Viruses come in waves. There are striking similarities to this virus and the virus that killed up to 100 million people in 1918. The first wave is historically more mild than the later waves.

    In addition to this virus becoming more severe, it is mutating faster than previous virus that we have seen. In addition, this virus is nothing like we have ever seen before because it combines features from viruses natural in different parts of the globe. We are in uncharted territory.

    If it follows the same path as the 1918 flu, we will see very damaging results. However, we must remember we are a global society now and the virus can spread quicker than we have ever witnessed in history. This is very concerning especially since the drugs we have now seem resistant.

    While there have been no deaths in America, it is shadowed by the fact the common variable among the deaths seem to be age. While most American cases have involved the very young and very old (under 10 and over 50) the Mexican cases that ended fatally involved the robust and healthy (over 20 and under 45).

    This virus kills the host by over-stimulating the immune system. The term that is used when the immune system over reacts is called a Cytokine Storm. It is usually fatal. During this “Storm” over 150 inflammatory mediators are released. This would account for the high mortality rate in 1918-19.

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  2. yep,

    we are all gear up and ready..

    hopefully less people will suffer this time..

    will be praying for those suffering.

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  3. Hi Ju, thanks so much for the additional information on swine flu. A thought crossed my mind as I was reading your piece. A health/medical crisis like this or something similar might or could end the world in Dec 2012. Eh? I hate to say it but realistically... nothing is impossible.

    Robin, that is reassuring. I think the world is better prepared this time around.

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  4. Should I stock surgical masks?

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  5. KS, anything to help the economy is welcome, I suppose, though there might not be a shortage as Top Glove is increasing their capacity of 70% currently by another 20% or so according to their company CEO. Got any Top Glove stocks?

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  6. The most important thing is this kind of outbreak is to be healthy - have lots of vit C, rest & sleep and don't overwork. Of course, it also helps that we don't go to affected areas for now. Just my two-cents. :)

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  7. Latest news - now reached Phase 5 pandemic alert. Looks like it's not getting any better.

    Better be prepared! I think if Malaysia have cases of swine flu, people will start to panic.

    But if really widespread, the Govt would have to declare a state of emergency! I hope we won't ever reach that state!

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  8. JL, all good advice. Thanks.

    Foong, scary, huh? They are even talking about the 1918 Spanish flu which left 40 million people dead.

    Excerpt from The Star:Universiti Sains Malaysia Public Health professor with a doctoral in epidemiology Dr Chan Chee Khoon said some people think it would not be serious but if the virus replicates the characteristics of the Spanish flu, many could be infected or die.

    With the World Health Organisation raising the alert level for swine flu epidemic to five, there has been concern that the A/H1N1 swine flu virus strain could prove just as dangerous.

    Dr Chan said the swine flu epidemic was harder to control than the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) but not as deadly.

    “The flu virus becomes infectious even before symptoms are seen and this makes it difficult for health authorities to contain the disease,” he told
    The Star.

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