I travel a lot. I see preparations being made to deal with a pandemic at airports and in different ways by different governments. I asked colleagues who work in epidemiology what we were dealing with and how much I should worry. Here’s what they said:
- This flu, which they call H1N1, not Swine Flu, is what they call a novel virus, in that it is new and have never been recorded or analysed before this outbreak.
- A novel virus is unpredictable in that there is no built up immunity in populations and, therfore, it can spread quickly.
- The current H1N1 is sensitive to (can be fought with) Tamaflu and Relenza. That’s the good news. It is not sensitive to two other antivirals, which can be a problem if it mutates to become Tamiflu or Relenza resistant.
- The current working theory about its origin is a Smithfield Foods (American hog factory farm company) affiliate outside Mexico City. The suspected patient zero was a boy from a nearby village where almost half were stricken earlier this year. What is significant is that the villagers had been complaining for sometime about open hog waste ponds where ducks were present and biting insects fed. One possibility (not proven) is that the ducks had bird flu which mingled with swine flu. The biting insects picked up both and infected people who already had human flu, as February is Mexico’s flu season and very few people are inoculated.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) is upping their alert level to 5. This is significant. 6 is a full blown out of control pandemic. This will release measures to deal with the problem across borders and means they’re concerned about countries that don’t have the measures in place that we do in the developed nations.
What you can do to protect yourself below the fold…