The latest news about the H1N1 swine flu.
Here in the United States the news about the swine flu (H1N1 flu) has diminished to a few stories. There is still a lot of news and concerns about the swine flu and the upcoming flu season.
In the United States and the rest of the northern hemisphere with hot and humid summer weather, the flu bug doesn’t spread as much in this weather. There are still outbreaks of the H1N1 flu being reported around the country and the rest of the northern hemisphere.
On June 11, 2009 the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the worldwide pandemic alert level to the highest level of Phase 6. This means that a pandemic is underway. It is important to know that these pandemic alert levels are only based on the geographical spread of the flu and not the severity of the illness. Many states have stopped testing people that might have H1N1 flu and the only people being tested are those who require hospitalization.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is saying that 40% of the US population could get the swine flu in the next two years. This is based on studies from the 1957 flu pandemic. At first this same news story stated that 40% of working Americans could be missing from the workforce, either because they are sick or staying at home caring for someone who is sick.
There are have been some fairly large swine flu outbreaks this summer in the US. At the US Air Force Academy in Colorado, 67 cadets had confirmed cased of H1N1 as of July 13th. At least 50 summer camps in 20 states have been closed this summer because of the H1N1 flu.
In the United States, the CDC estimates that as many as 1 million Americans have had the swine flu so far and 127 people have died from the flu. The CDC says this is reassuring news because it indicates that the fatality rate from the H1N1 flu is even lower than first thought. The BBC wrote that 100,000 suspected new cases of H1N1 in England, which was double reported the previous week. There have been 26 deaths in England and the number of people in the hospital from the flu was at 840. Some of these deaths are now being attributed to causes other than the flu. In Paris, 64 teenagers are being quarantined at area summer camps after 47 had tested positive for the swine flu.
The flu symptoms continue to be mild like a normal flu and people with no major underlying health problems such as diabetes and asthma should recover. The odd thing about the H1N1 flu is its ability to continue to spread even throughout the summer months.
It has been winter in the southern hemisphere during our summer, that’s why it has been important to watch how the flu has progressed in those countries.
Australia has 16,768 cases with 47 deaths. Argentina has reported 3,056 cases with 137 deaths. Chile has reported 11,000 cases and 40 deaths. New Zealand reported 2,255 cases of H1N1 flu and 10 deaths. These countries report that most cases that are severe and in the hospital are people who had other health problems and that the rest of those with the flu are more like normal and mild flu symptoms. It still seems to be affecting younger people from children to young adults the most. During the school holidays in Australia, the reported flu cases and number of people in the emergency rooms did drop, when the kids went back to school the reports of people sick with the flu rose again.
The most important signs that are being watched for in the southern hemisphere are any mutations of the H1N1 swine flu with other types of flu such as avian flu. According to WHO, as of July 25, there are no signs of the H1N1 flu mutating.
Concerns and Plans
One concern is the using of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu to prevent getting the flu. This drug does not prevent you from getting the flu; it lessens the symptoms should you get the flu. The concern is that there are now drug-resistant strains of the swine flu.
One plan is to have mass dispensing centers to immunize people. Hopefully the flu vaccine will be ready and available just like every other fall and winter. And you can go to your own doctor, a clinic or even the grocery store and get your flu shot.
According to Dr. Robert Belshe, Director of Saint Louis University’s Center for Vaccine Development, models predict that the H1N1 flu will peak in October, with many cases being diagnosed in September as children return to school. The current plan in the US is to administer the H1N1 flu vaccine separately from the normal flu vaccine since those vaccines are almost completed. The earliest the swine flu vaccines will be available, will be mid-October.
A separate study published on July 13, 2009 in the journal Nature, suggest the H1N1 flu is stronger than previously thought. The research done by Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin in Madison showed that the H1N1 virus infects the lungs and was more likely to cause pneumonia compared to the normal seasonal flu, which typically affect the sinuses and throat. The research also said test of antiviral drugs in mice showed the drugs worked and will be effective against the H1N1 flu in humans.
With 1 million Americans possibly having the swine flu already, this could build up immunity in us if it doesn’t change and mutate over the fall and winter. It is possible the H1N1 flu never left us this summer; it just isn’t as easily passed around in the hotter more humid weather. Personally, I have heard many people complain of being sick this summer, more so than ever before during a summer. Some cases of a stomach virus and most everyone complaining of cold like symptoms including sore throat, coughing and scratchy throats. I wonder if it wouldn’t be best to delay the start of school this year until the vaccine is ready.
© 2009 Sam Montana - July 26, 2009
Worldwide map of H1N1 flu
Nature H1N1 article
Worldwide Swine Flu News - Topix
Australian Dept of Health and Ageing
Historical facts About Past Flu Pandemics