Swine Flu Threat - NOT the Feared H5N1 Bird Flu
Although it is too soon to know just how dangerous the new strain of Swine Flu will become, initially the mortality rate is quite different from the very deadly H5N1 Bird Flu with the seven confirmed human Swine Flu cases in the U.S. all being mild and only requiring brief hospitalization according to the April 24 report by the World Health Organization.
WHO (World Health Organization) pages are available in multiple languages and alphabets.
Bloomberg News Service is reporting that the WHO is about to identify this new influenza strain as an event of "international concern."
Currently the WHO Pandemic Level is set at 3 on a scale of from 1 to 5.
The current situation is that there have been five confirmed cases of A/H1N1 (Swine Influenza) in California and two more in Texas, with five additional suspected cases in the U.S. With no deaths or even serious illness.
H1N1 itself (not the new variant) is one of the common flu viruses which spreads around the world every year and are responsible for up to half million deaths every year.
A more serious influenza variant such as the dreaded H5N1 Bird Flu could kill tens of millions because there may be no vaccine ready to distribute and people will not have built up any individual immunity from having had similar strains in the past.
Mexico has already seen 18 laboratory confirmed cases of A/H1N1 according to a Canadian lab, with 12 instances of the virus being exactly identical to the California cases.
Of the suspected (not just confirmed) cased in Mexico, nearly 60 people are thought to have died from the new Swine Flu variant in recent days.
This is a new strain of flu never detected before and especially scary because it is hitting the health portion of the population and not targeting the elderly and very young which the most are normally at risk from the yearly flu.
So far the The U.S. based CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in Atlanta, GA, reports that it has not been able to find any particular link between the U.S. cases and either exposure to pigs or to any common source of infection.
The H5N1 Bird flu which caused so much concern a few years ago and is still seen as a major threat by health organizations, is still around but hasn't yet made the mutation necessary to jump from the bird-to-bird and bird-to-people infection vector to a person-to-person infection - that would trigger a vast spread which could overwhelm healthcare facilities and government agencies.
The big danger from H5N1 is that young, healthy people are most like to die from it because their immune systems are so vigorous that in attacking the infection they actually kill the patient.
Mortality rates for H5N1 in young healthy humans is extremely high even when given the best possible treatment. Often the only way to save an individual is to put them on a breathing apparatus but hospitals only have a limited capability to treat patients this way.
At this point the new Swine Flu variant doesn't appear to pose nearly as great a mortality risk although it has the potential to spread rapidly worldwide and be a major health risk even if not in the category of the awful pandemic which killed nearly 100 million people during the late 1910's.
The World Health Organization reports that," The viruses so far characterized have been sensitive to oseltamivir (Tamiflu), but resistant to both amantadine and rimantadine."
The U.S. CDC, publishes a weekly survey of all influenza cases in the U.S.
As of week 15 (April 12-18, 2009), there were only two influenza-related deaths reported, neither from the new A/H1N1 virus.
In addition to decades as a science reporter, John A. McCormick has worked for years as a local emergency management coordinator (now retired) and has advised facilities and municipalities on preparations for a flu pandemic.
He also maintains http://newmedicineonline.com/, a medical information Web site certified by HON, Healthcare on the Net (an NGO affiliate of the WHO in Geneva) as providing unbiased and accurate medical information.
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HON was developed to provide assurance of the quality of online medical information given by independent sources.
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John McCormick is a reporter, /science/medical columnist and finance and social commentator, with 17,000+ bylined stories. Contact John through NewsBlaze.
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