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29 April 2009 @ 05:44 pm
WHO - Pandemic level 5 - Still don't freak out  
Just a short word - Today, the WHO raised the pandemic threat level to 5 in response to the continued spread of the disease. While this sounds alarming, it's still not a reason to freak out. We have a grand total of 91 confirmed cases in the US, some of which I am sure is due to increased testing, not additional illnesses. And, yes, there is now one confirmed US death. A mortality rate of ~1% is high for an influenza, but keep in mind we know nothing about the dead patient, so very few conclusions can be drawn from that.

So... still don't freak out.

Go wash your hands.
Current Mood: calmcalm
Jennifer (aka Ekaterina): Candlejenakaekat on April 29th, 2009 11:07 pm (UTC)
Don't worry...I am not.
However our customers might be...we are low or out of lysol wipes, purell, and masks. Our wholesalers are low or out. Raw materials of the manufacturers are low or out. Did I mention I work for an office supply company, not a health care company?
(Oh and the U of M wants to know if we can get to them 50,000 bottles of purell.)
Mark Gordon: seriousmtgordon on April 30th, 2009 12:26 am (UTC)
22- or 23-month-old boy (sources disagree), from Mexico, visiting family in Texas. Arrived on the 4th, hospitalized in Brownsville the 13th, transferred to a hospital in Houston on the 14th, and died the 27th.

Draw what conclusions you will now that you know a little something, but it seems likely that this has been spreading in Mexico for in excess of three weeks.
eithni: PharmDeithni on April 30th, 2009 05:38 am (UTC)
I heard 22 month old girl this evening, but the principle is much the same. This is actually in line with what one would expect in an influenza outbreak - the very young and the very old and the infirm being the hardest hit.

That the virus has been in Mexico for that long is somewhat worrisome since that exponentially increases the number of potentially infected people. I hope enough people obey the requested quarantine to help knock this thing down.
Mark Gordon: seriousmtgordon on April 30th, 2009 06:12 am (UTC)
Now Mexico is saying that the earliest confirmed case dates to early March; the patient, a young boy, recovered completely, though two infants in his village died. They're also saying that he's the only one in his village whose influenza was this novel strain. Again, I'm taking the Mexican authorities with a huge grain of salt.

The good news is threefold, really: first, that the growth within Mexico likely hasn't been as exponential as it may have appeared, implying that the disease isn't quite so contagious as we had feared; second, that it's likely that many minor cases have gone undetected, in which case this strain also isn't nearly as virulent as we had feared; third, that in terms of the most severely affected demographic, this is looking more like a typical flu.

The bad news, of course, is that there's a novel flu strain out there for which last winter's vaccine does squat, and efforts to contain it at this late stage are going to be of limited effectiveness.

It's still some consolation that this strain isn't looking quite as scary as it once did.

Apparently the new strain wasn't identified as such until it reached the US; in Mexico, the medical community had assumed it was a run-of-the-mill seasonal influenza and pretty much ignored it.
judithsewstoojudithsewstoo on April 30th, 2009 01:15 am (UTC)
Oh the horror! Chaos in the streets!! Zombie attacks!!!

Oh.... wait... wrong show. ;)

Heh, not one to panic about things like this. I'm still amused that with all the hype the last couple of years about the avian flu this kind of slipped in under the radar.

I'd be more worried about an outbreak of chickenpox.
gwyndlyngwyndlyn on April 30th, 2009 03:22 am (UTC)
Is the "swine" variety of flu any more dangerous than "regular" flu? Is there a real danger to a normal, healthy adult? I would think that any flu poses a higher risk to infants and the elderly. Is that the case here as well?

Back to washing my hands...
Jack Flandersjack_flanders on April 30th, 2009 05:32 am (UTC)
I think one of the concerns is that the severity (and potential mortality) seemed fairly high early on - reports of over 100 deaths possibly due to this particular strain in Mexico, for instance. But so far, they've only officially attributed 7-ish deaths to the "big bad one", so maybe it's not as bad as it seemed for a bit there.

One of the mysteries of this is that they're not sure why the US cases seem so much less severe, though it could just be because of differences in where the cases occur (I doubt even upscale parts of Mexico City have as many good Urgent Care clinics as a medium-sized American city...)

Then again, even 1% mortality can be quite a nightmare, if enough people get sick. Not to scare anyone- just noting the risk.
eithni: PharmDeithni on April 30th, 2009 05:45 am (UTC)
I think there is too little data yet to determine exactly how dangerous this flu is. The Mexican data is incomplete and confused at best and there have been only a very few cases in the US.

Generally, an influenza disproportionately affects the elderly, the very young, and the infirm. However, in this case, there seem to be more young, healthy adults affected in the US. This is part of the reason for worry, since a spring outbreak that was hardest on young adults is the pattern that started the 1918 influenza outbreak. However, it also could be due to the fact that young, relatively healthy people are more likely to have traveled to Mexico.

Again, we will know more in the coming days - right now pretty much everything is speculation of one flavor or another.
Mark Gordon: seriousmtgordon on April 30th, 2009 06:15 am (UTC)
Young, relatively healthy people are more likely to have traveled to Mexico. Also, it's looking like a lot of people brought this home from spring break.

At one point, fully half the confirmed cases in the US were from one school in Queens that had a large-scale organized trip to Mexico.
zandoria: Flagzandoria on April 30th, 2009 03:54 am (UTC)
If anyone should be worried, it should be us. Winnipeg is the home of the main Canadian research lab for viruses (that would be the National Microbiology Laboratory) , and yesterday we received something like 200 samples of the virus, direct from Mexico. However, the lab is a very, very secure facility, and they are working night and day on creating a vaccine, just in case. So, we're not worried, they're working on it.

And we're washing our hands.
zandoriazandoria on April 30th, 2009 03:55 am (UTC)
eithni: peekabooeithni on April 30th, 2009 05:48 am (UTC)
Neat! Thanks!
whymcwhymc on April 30th, 2009 05:12 am (UTC)
But I had *bacon* today! What was I thinking? We're all doooommmmeeeed. (Well, I *should* probably watch the cholesterol intake...)
eithni: greeneithni on April 30th, 2009 05:46 am (UTC)
world_rim_walke: Horrorworld_rim_walke on April 30th, 2009 04:12 pm (UTC)
Oh no! What should I wear to your funeral?
ego_id_non_feciego_id_non_feci on April 30th, 2009 11:24 pm (UTC)
Are you ready for this?


My daycare made a brand-new form. If your child goes home with fever AND aches, fever AND coughing, or fever AND sore throat, you have to get a form that states, "This Child Does Not Have Swine Flu" from your doctor before your child can return.

Major problem? Doctors aren't testing my kids for swine flu because they're not at risk for it.

Parents are livid.

Hee. Stupid daycare. That's all.
eithni: WTFeithni on May 1st, 2009 04:03 am (UTC)
Mark Gordon: seriousmtgordon on May 2nd, 2009 01:47 pm (UTC)
Ordinary doctors don't have the means of testing for swine flu; they'd have to send nasal swabs to Atlanta, IIRC. I suppose a negative test for type A would suffice, though. Still, I'm wondering how the CDC is keeping up with the workload.

I hope this policy gets rescinded at some point.
eithni: PharmDeithni on May 2nd, 2009 09:27 pm (UTC)
The CDC sent a test kit to San Diego to do remote testing there. If that goes well, and testing needs increase, they are planning on sending out several more kits to hard-hit or major cities.
Mark Gordon: happymtgordon on May 2nd, 2009 10:39 pm (UTC)
For the record, I have no end of respect for the CDC. They really, really seem to have their act together.
eithni: lightningeithni on May 2nd, 2009 11:39 pm (UTC)
Generally, I agree. I think it was a bad idea to call it a National Health _Emergency_ - I would have called it an "Advisory" or something less likely to freak people out, but that's a relatively minor quibble.