Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Swine Flu / Influenza 2009 H1N1 - Edging off the Front Page, but Not a Dead Issue

"Swine flu kills 2nd person in U.S."
Reuters (May 5, 2009)

"A Texas woman with the new H1N1 swine flu died earlier this week, state health officials said on Tuesday, the second death outside of Mexico, where the epidemic appeared to be waning.

"The death of the woman, who was in her 30s and had health problems, followed that of a Mexican toddler visiting Texas. U.S. health officials have predicted that the virus would spread and inevitably kill some people, just as seasonal flu does.

"The World Health Organisation was monitoring the spread of the virus and said 21 countries have officially reported 1,490 cases...."

'It could be worse,' as we say in Minnesota. America has over 400 cases of swine flu / influenza A(H1N1) now - and this is the second death in this country. The toddler who was brought to a Texas hospital for treatment before dying was not a resident of the United States, so America has a roughly 1 in 400 death rate from this flu.

That's much less serious than the 1 in about 14 rate, early on in influenza A(H1N1)'s progress. The death rate in Mexico now is 29 deaths out of 822 cases, or a bit over 1 in 28 cases: half as bad as when this began, but still bad.

So far, there are 1,490 confirmed cases around the world: with no reported deaths outside Mexico or the United States. (More at "Influenza A(H1N1) - update 16" and "Influenza A(H1N1) - update 15" WHO (May 5, 2009).)

Any sort of influenza is at best unpleasant - and potentially lethal. But, there are common-sense ways to increase your chances of staying healthy. The CDC has a pretty good list on its "H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu)" page, where they post updates. Look for the "What You Can Do to Stay Healthy" heading.

I'm following their advice: I'm not in a panic over swine flu, but I'm not stupid, either.

Cytokine Storm Review

I've been over this before, but it bears repeating. This year's influenza A(H1N1), or swine flu (really a sort of hybrid avian/swine/human flu) is new. Aside from the 1,400 or so people who caught it and live, we don't have an immunity to it.

That makes something called a cytokine storm, a cool name for hypercytokinemia, possible in people who get infected. It seems to boil down to the immune system over-reacting, once it 'notices' that there's an infection. Think of a city's police force using tactical nukes to handle a riot. I wrote a little more about it, with links, on May 2, 2009.

What's interesting about the cytokine storm situation is that it hits healthy people with good, working, immune systems harder than the young, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.

Only a Few People Died, in Only Two Countries: Problem Over, Right?

I hope so, but WHO and national outfits like CDC would be irresponsible if they acted on that assumption.

"Swine flu," or influenza A(H1N1), is edging out of the top headlines. Which is good sense, I think. I doubt that there are many people now, who
  1. Pay attention to the news and
  2. Don't know about the new and improved 2009 "swine flu"
And, there's not much to report apart from the steady spread of the disease across the globe.

Meanwhile, Here in Central Minnesota - - -

Around here, Catholic churches have made the sign of peace a 'no contact' part of Mass, per the bishop's directions: an 'abundance of caution' thing, I think. And, Catholics have been told that if you're sick: stay home. The Sunday obligation is off if you've got health issues. Nothing new there, actually.

It's 'no visitors, period' at the local nursing home.

The Alexandria, Minnesota, Technical College hosted a community picnic & Cinco de Mayo celebration today: and they picked a great day for it. It's not so festive down in Mexico, though, I read.

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

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