Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why Keep An Eye on the Flu- Part 2

A while back I wrote about why we should keep an eye on the new H1N1 virus despite the waning coverage in the press and the mildness of the outbreak here in the states.

Despite the pandemeic declaration there is no need to panic, yet many signs to note in the developing situation. It is why I have kept the Flu blogs and links posted. Over at Effect Measure they rightfully say that this is a teachable moment and a time that we are blessed with to get prepared:

For years those concerned about the consequences of an influenza pandemic from an exceptionally virulent flu virus, like A/H5N1 ("bird flu") have despaired about motivating business, government and neighbors to take it seriously enough to make serious preparations. It's understandable. There's are a lot of potential catastrophes competing for our attention and while each can be made plausible if we can get someone to listen long enough, it's rare we can do this. As I said, too much competition. Now that a real life influenza pandemic has arrived, the concern of some is that the public isn't being told how bad this could become, possibly even 1918 level. My view is different. In terms of stimulating genuine pandemic preparedness, I think we are extremely lucky to have a pandemic that so far is nowhere near worst case scenario (and let's be clear: it isn't anywhere near worst case). The pandemic is no longer theoretical. It is here and tangible. And it is having some tangible effects in unlikely places...

Unlikely places like Hedge funds.

And there are some disturbing trends.

First the flu is not subsiding here in the US as summer begins. Typically the flu viruses taper off or disappear completely in the summer months. The question now becomes what will it look like when the usual flu season comes around in the fall and winter?

Second, the southern hemisphere (currently experiencing winter) is having a tough go of it:

It is still relatively early in the flu season south of the Equator, with the peak not expected until next month, but already Argentina and Chile are reporting serious demands on their medical system.

Elective surgeries are being canceled in some Buenos Aires hospitals, and mobile flu clinics are being dispatched to some neighborhoods. Of 111 people hospitalized in the country’s capital, 75 are on ventilators.
(Avian Flu Diary)

Last but certainly not least is the disturbing news that the virus may be mutating into a more virulent strain:

Virologists in Sao Paulo, Brazil, have just announced they have indeed identified a variant of the flu gene after testing samples taken from a 26-year-old swine flu patient.
Lead researcher Terezinha Maria de Paiva, of the Adolfo Lutz Bacteriological Institute, says it is too soon to know if the new variant, dubbed the A/Sao Paulo/1454/H1N1 variant, will be more aggressive than the type A/H1N1 that prompted the official declaration of pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) but the patient from whom the sample was taken has completely recovered from his bout with swine flu. The patient began experiencing flu-like symptoms after returning from a trip to Mexico.

This one had a happy ending. As I said, its worth watching.

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