Swine flu pandemic?

The CDC’s Swine Flu page

WHO’s Swine Flu page

AlertNet’s survey of worldwide reaction to outbreak

The story of a community spared in the 1919 world flu pandemic — a study by the University of Michigan. (includes links to contemporary accounts from the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner)

Here’s the latest from the Associated Press regarding the outbreak of Swine Flu and the possibility the virus could mutate into a more dangerous strain:

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The world’s governments raced to avoid both a pandemic and global hysteria Sunday as more possible swine flu cases surfaced from Canada to New Zealand and the United States declared a public health emergency. “It’s not a time to panic,” the White House said.

Mexico, the outbreak’s epicenter with up to 86 suspected deaths, closed churches, 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.

The U.S. declared the health emergency so it could ship roughly 12 million doses of flu-fighting medications from a federal stockpile to states in case they eventually need them — although with 20 confirmed cases of people recovering easily, they don’t appear to for now.

Make no mistake: There is not a global pandemic — at least not yet. It’s not clear how many people truly have this particular strain, or why all countries but Mexico are seeing mild disease. Nor is it clear if the new virus spreads easily, one milestone that distinguishes a bad flu from a global crisis. But waiting to take protective steps until after a pandemic is declared would be too late.

“We do think this will continue to spread but we are taking aggressive actions to minimize the impact on people’s health,” said Dr. Richard Besser, acting chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

President Barack Obama’s administration sought to look both calm and in command, striking a balance between informing Americans without panicking them. Obama himself was playing golf while U.S. officials used a White House news conference to compare the emergency declaration with preparing for an approaching hurricane.

“Really that’s what we’re doing right now. We’re preparing in an environment where we really don’t know ultimately what the size or seriousness of this outbreak is going to be,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters.

Earlier, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the outbreak was serious, but that the public should know “it’s not a time to panic.” He told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Obama was getting updates “every few hours” on the situation.

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  • Pandemia

    CDC Chief: “We’re Going To See More Severe Disease In This Country.”

    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.

    See history and projections here:
    Swine Flu – http://www.butasforme.com/2009/04/25/a-quick-trip-through-the-history-of-pandemic-influenza/

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