Saturday, April 25, 2009

Swine Flu 2009

Since it looks like the swine flu epidemic in Mexico is going to be around for a while - and since I think it's serious enough to follow as more information comes - I'm starting a sort of 'table of contents' for the anticipated posts, and the one I've already written.

Swine flu 2009 posts

Background and more information

WHO Alert Phases

News articles mentioned health alert levels, sometimes indicating that they had something to do with WHO (World Health Organization). I did a little digging, and found this:

WHO Alert Phases:
  1. Low risk of human cases
  2. Higher risk of human cases
  3. No or very limited human-to-human transmission
  4. Evidence of increased human-to-human transmission
  5. Evidence of significant human-to-human transmission
  6. Efficient and sustained human-to-human transmission
Right now, globally, were at "3." (

"Public Health Emergency" - What's That Mean?

The phrase "public health emergency" has shown up in quite a few news items, but I hadn't seen it defined. So, I did a little checking around, starting with the CDC website. The official definition is a mouthful: I can see why news editors decided not to try explaining it.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) defines a public health emergency this way:

"Public health emergency: An occurrence or condition within a Party's ["Party" defined as "A governmental entity or agency that has adopted and executed the Agreement."] jurisdiction which results in a situation of such magnitude or consequence that it cannot be adequately handled by the Party such that the Party determines the necessity and advisability of requesting mutual aid, including but not limited to, bioterrorism or terrorism events, outbreaks or release of dangerously contagious or infectious disease, infectious agents, chemical agents, or toxins, natural disasters, technological hazards, man-made disasters, civil emergencies, community disorders, insurgency, enemy attack, or other public health emergencies that possess the high probability of death, long-term disability, or substantial future harm in the affected population."

Which is about the same way that WHO (World Health Organization) defines it.


BNS said...

Glad to see your post with links to the real facts about this outbreak. There are far too many rumors circulating, so it's very important to direct readers to reliable, authoritative info sources.

One correction to your post: The day before yesterday, the WHO raised the pandemic alert level to 4.


Brian H. Gill said...


I know: the alert phase was four, before WHO raised it to five. The Associated Press was fairly clear about that: and other news organizations agree.

Brian H. Gill said...


I hope I didn't sound curt there. This is a rather rapidly changing situation - and I see that your link now has WHO claiming that they've raised the level to 5.

Thanks for the heads-up, BTW: I've made errors before, and probably will again.

gutsamillion said...

I wanted to post that this couldn't happen in an american farm. We have much higher safety and sanitary standards as proven by this video:

Brian H. Gill said...


Pig farming is a big part of the economy around here, and I know how high the standards are.

Just the same, I'm a bit cautious about saying 'it can't happen here.' Earlier this year, America had quite a scare involving poison peanuts: from an American processing plant, where high standards should have been maintained - but weren't. ("Peanut Peril: Remembering" (February 26, 2009))

I've got a high opinion of the American food production and distribution system: but even the best system can fail, now and again.

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