While I am not for a minute underestimating the potential of the 2009 H1N1 virus, better known as the swine flu, it seems that for now for what is seen as a potential for a pandemic is not acting like a pandemic.
That is to say that although Mexico has suffered 150 or more deaths officially attributed to the H1N1 virus – let’s just call it swine flu with no offense to pigs or pork – it does not seem to be terribly deadly elsewhere – yet. The U.S. has only suffered one death and that was a child who came here from Mexico seeking medical treatment. As of this writing I have not read nor heard about deaths elsewhere (although news changes rapidly).
A look at the current numbers (and realize that by the time many read this they no longer will be current) shows 109 confirmed cases in the U.S. and a handful in the various regions of the world. It seems that most of the cases can be attributed to the simple fact that people travel directly from Mexico to other areas of the world. A member of President Obama’s staff and his family are suspected of having contracted the swine flu, it has been reported. There had even been concern for the president himself when one report said that an official with whom he shook hands on his recent trip to Mexico later died, but last I heard it was not from the swine flu (maybe it was old age, I don’t know).
So anyway, 150 deaths in Mexico (some say no more than might be attributed in any given year or less to the more regular forms of flu), and 109 cases (and counting?) in the U.S. and as I said a handful elsewhere. I should note that Mexico reports 2,400 suspected cases.
AND HERE IS AN UPDATE FROM MY ORIGINAL POST:
The World Health Organization (WHO) is now calling the current swine flu virus Influenza A (H1N1).
The latest numbers as of this update (late Thursday evening my time) are 257 confirmed cases world-wide, 109 in the U.S. and 97 in Mexico.
I will also note here that I have been reading that so far this current virus has actually not been detected in pigs (that’s curious).
But the world population is 6.7 billion. So by any measure, the potential pandemic is small at this time.
According to current news reports, the swine flu is suspected to have begun in a Mexican village in the state of Veracruz where the villagers think it may have originated from a commercial hog farm (run by a U.S. company). Tests, though, reportedly have come up negative for swine flu at that hog farm. It has also been reported that villagers there reported getting sick as far back as April 2 and I have also read as far back as February.
So, anyway, the swine flu spread in Mexico and then because of travel spread to the U.S. and elsewhere.
I have to wonder why the border has not been shut down. Perhaps that would be an overreaction, but I do not understand the rationale given by officials in the Obama administration and the advice of health authorities that it would be useless since the virus has already traveled here.
Would not more cases coming in increase the likelihood of increased transmission by some exponential effect? I am not calling for a border shutdown, but I would be interested to know why it should not be seriously considered, at least till things are sorted out. I realize it would have a drastic effect on the economy (more than has already taken place) and the lives of people who find themselves for family reasons going back and forth, but so could a pandemic.
The big mystery in all of this is why the swine flu seems to be harder on the Mexican population than those elsewhere. It seems as if the cases people are contracting elsewhere seem to be milder so far.
While I am out of my league in a matter that only doctors would understand, I have to wonder if the lack of healthy and sanitary living conditions in much of Mexico is the reason. I have not heard that discussed (although it may have been). Maybe that would not be politically correct.
Mexican citizens themselves can hardly be blamed for the swine flu. For all I know it may be the fault of U.S. hog farm (factory) operations in Mexico (or not). But it is interesting to note that with the amount of world travel there is, a heath problem in one nation becomes a health problem everywhere.
One health official noted today that in the southern hemisphere (that would of course be considerably south of Mexico) winter is coming on and it will be important to see if the virus will take off there. Also health officials are looking at the fact it could show a resurgence here in the northern hemisphere next Fall. I understand the so-called second wave of the influenza pandemic back in 1918 was the worst part of it.
There has also been an observation that unlike other flu strains that seem to leave the very young and the very old most vulnerable, this one seems to strike otherwise healthy people not in those two afore-mentioned catergories. And there has been talk that perhaps people with healthy immune systems are more vulnerable because in reaction to this new strain their immune systems overreact. No, I have no idea how that is. I’d like to read more about that.