Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu : Good News, Bad News from WHO, About Influenza 2009 H1N1

"Confirmed swine flu cases leap"
CNN (April 30, 2009)

"Confirmed cases of swine flu worldwide increased to 257 on Thursday, up significantly from the previous day's total of 147, the World Health Organization reported.

"In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it has confirmed 109 cases of swine flu, or 2009 H1N1, in 11 states, an increase of 18 from its previous total.

"The death toll climbed again Thursday, with Mexican officials announcing that the number of confirmed deaths from the virus in that country had increased to 12. There has been one death in the United States.

"More than 150 deaths in Mexico are suspected to have been caused by swine flu and are being investigated, officials there said. ..."

Mexico: Catching up on Backlog of Test Samples

What seems to be happening in Mexico is not so much new cases, as laboratories working through a backlog of samples.

"... The latest tally was announced one day after WHO raised the pandemic threat level to 5 on a six-step scale. WHO did not change the threat level Thursday.

Good News: No Reason to Move Toward Phase 6

" 'There is nothing epidemiologically that points to us today that we should be moving toward Phase 6,' [assistant director-general of WHO, Dr. Keiji] Fukuda said.

" 'It really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic," said Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO's director-general. 'We do not have all the answers right now, but we will get them.'..."

Influenza 2009 H1N1: Good News, Bad News

Today's situation is a little like the old good news/bad news jokes. The bad news is pretty obvious: a new, potentially lethal, disease is loose and has already spread around the world. There is no vaccine for it - partly because it's a new mix of avian, human, and swine influenza.

More Good News: Relatively Few Deaths From Swine Flu / Influenza H1N1

The good news is that there have been remarkably few (my opinion) deaths from influenza 2009 H1N1. Over 250 confirmed cases, and probably upwards of 100 deaths is not at all good: but it's still a very small percentage of the population.

And, now that the disease is identified, there's a very good chance that it will be contained before many more people are killed.

Bad News: Governments Acting Badly

On the other hand, some governments have already demonstrated a remarkable lack of good judgment. Egypt, with no cases of swine flu reported in the country, started slaughtering pigs. Which led to Egyptian pig farmers rioting. (CBS News) Ecuador, Cuba and Argentina have banned travel to or from Mexico (CNN), and France wants all Europeans to shun Mexico: never mind what WHO says (CBS News).

Swine Flu Vaccine: The Horror! The Horror! - Rehashing 1976

CBS News made quite a point of how awful it was that swine flu vaccine was used in 1976. And, according to CBS News: "The vaccination program turned out to be a deadly mistake." About 1 out of every 80,0001 people who got the vaccine developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). That's a serious neuromuscular disorder. That's about 6 times the number of people who would get GBS anyway.

CBS goes on to say that the vaccination program was useless because: "No swine flu epidemic ever erupted. The outbreak was limited to Fort Dix, and about 500 Americans likely died as a result of the vaccine...."

500 people died. That's bad. On the other hand, if the Ford administration had followed CBS-like wisdom and not vaccinated Americans, we might have had 40,000,000 dead people to deal with - like the 'Spanish influenza' of 1918. We'll never know, of course, whether or not the vaccination stopped a replay of 1918.

That's one of the great things about Monday-morning quarterbacking. The game's over, and the M-m quarterback is free to speculate on what would have happened if he had been in charge.

Times Change, People Don't

We've already seen dead pigs in Egypt, the start of a boycott of Mexico, and a rehashing of an incident from the Ford administration.

My guess is that more silliness will be displayed before this is over.

List of posts relating to Swine flu 2009; and list of background resources:

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