WHO Warns of Imminent World-Wide Pandemic

Postby Wizard CaT » Wed Apr 29, 2009 11:22 pm

BETSY MCKAY and STEPHANIE SIMON wrote:The World Health Organization warned countries Wednesday that a global pandemic from a new strain of flu appeared imminent, as the number of ill continued to grow and the first death outside Mexico was reported in Texas.

The United Nations public-health agency raised its global pandemic alert level to phase 5 from phase 4, indicating the A/H1N1 virus has caused outbreaks in at least two countries in one region. "All countries should immediately activate their pandemic preparation plans" and be on "high alert" for outbreaks, said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan issues a statement on the decision to raise the influenza pandemic alert to phase 5 and urging everyone to take the alert seriously. Video courtesy of Fox News.

Dr. Chan said the decision was made after the agency established that sustained person-to-person transmission was occurring in the U.S., in addition to Mexico. The outbreak at a private school in the New York City borough of Queens caught the attention of WHO officials, because students who had traveled to Mexico returned to campus and infected others. Several hundred people associated with the school are believed to have caught the flu strain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 51 people in New York have been confirmed with swine flu. The total number of cases in the U.S. grew Wednesday to 91 people in 10 states.

The WHO had raised its pandemic alert level to 4 from 3 earlier this week. Wednesday's move reflected the rapid spread of the disease by international travelers. The WHO said nine countries had reported 148 cases, though several countries had many more suspected cases.

Mexico says its death toll may be as high as 159 people. The country's top government epidemiologist said Wednesday it was "highly improbable" that a pig farm in the state of Veracruz suspected of originating the new strain was responsible for the global outbreak.

Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's top flu official, said the agency could soon declare a pandemic, which is designated as level 6. "We think we are in the process of moving there," he said. "The spread of this is clearly related to travel. It is possible we will move to seeing established transmission in other countries relatively quickly."

The escalating alert levels reflect the speed with which the virus is spreading, not its lethality, officials and scientists said.

Some Mexican doctors say they believe many more people had the virus than initially thought and have since made a full recovery, suggesting it could turn out to be a relatively mild pandemic -- like new viruses that swept the world in 1957 and 1968. Or, say flu scientists, it could evolve into a deadlier bug, like the one in 1918.

Dr. Chan said the WHO could not risk waiting to determine the precise mortality rate of this strain before acting. "The biggest question right now is this: How severe will the pandemic be?" she said.

"The virus is very unpredictable, and we are still at an early stage," she said. "It may be possible that the virus will die out and stop. But it can turn the other way, which is why it's important for us to continue to be vigilant and track its movements."

In Texas, a toddler who traveled from Mexico with his family died in a Houston hospital, the first confirmed U.S. death.

The boy, who was a few weeks shy of his second birthday, came down with a fever on April 8, four days after traveling with his parents and grandparents to Brownsville, at the southern tip of Texas. He was admitted to a hospital a few days later and treated for flu symptoms.

By then, "the child was very sick," said state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., who was briefed by medical authorities. "He appeared to be suffering from a compromised immune system from a previous illness."

The boy's condition deteriorated rapidly, Mr. Lucio said; his kidneys began to fail and he was put on a ventilator. He was transferred to a Houston hospital, where he died Monday. Tests later showed the new strain.

Gov. Rick Perry issued a disaster proclamation in Texas, where probable cases ranged in age from an 11-month-old patient to a 72-year-old. Some were in contact with people ill with the virus, while others had no known contact, nor had they traveled to Mexico.

State officials canceled or postponed academic, athletic and arts competitions that would have brought together students from across the state.

President Barack Obama said the boy's death underscored the government's decision to take aggressive action. He said the U.S. continued to closely monitor the outbreak. "This is obviously a serious situation -- serious enough to take the utmost precaution," he said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education said 104 schools, with about 56,000 students, had been closed in eight states by noon Wednesday. Seventy-four of the schools were shuttered because of confirmed or suspected cases of swine flu. The remainder were closed as a precaution. About 44,000 of the affected students were in Texas, he said.

Among the new cases was a U.S. Marine stationed in Southern California.
—Gautam Naik, Mike Esterl and David Luhnow contributed to this article.

Write to Betsy McKay at betsy.mckay@wsj.com and Stephanie Simon at stephanie.simon@wsj.com


Key developments on swine flu outbreaks, according to CDC, WHO and government officials:

Deaths: 159 in Mexico, seven confirmed as swine flu and rest suspected. One confirmed in U.S., a boy from Mexico who died in Texas.

Sickened: 2,498 suspected and 19 confirmed in Mexico. Confirmed elsewhere: at least 93 in U.S.; 13 in Canada; 14 in New Zealand; five in Britain; three in Germany; 10 in Spain; two in Israel; and one in Austria.

U.S. cases confirmed by CDC and state officials: 51 in New York, 14 in California, 16 in Texas, three in Maine; two in Kansas, two in Massachusetts, and one each in Indiana, Ohio, Arizona and Nevada. CDC also said Michigan had two, but state officials said only one was confirmed.


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Re: WHO Warns of Imminent World-Wide Pandemic

Postby arex » Fri May 01, 2009 10:13 pm

I, for one, am not too worried.



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Re: WHO Warns of Imminent World-Wide Pandemic

Postby Anna » Fri May 01, 2009 11:25 pm

arex wrote:I, for one, am not too worried.



Hnngh.

The swine flu is to new, no one can say how it will develope.
And as I wrote in an earlier post, the "normal" flu, even the actual flu here is killing more people.
I wrote: hundreds, that's wrong, an expert at TV said it was actually some thousands in the last year, in Germany!
Thousand dead people by a "normal", well known flu!

What the heck is going on? Where is the relation?
The swine flu murdered just about 200 people, most in Mexico.
Is it only that is to new? Is it that it can mutate? Is it that no one knows how this mutation can be?

In my opinion, take every year a protection against the flu, you can easily die of it, and the chances that it can happen is more realistic than getting the actual swine flu.
So please, don't get any flu, the normal one is the real killer.
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Re: WHO Warns of Imminent World-Wide Pandemic

Postby Jennifer Diane Reitz » Sat May 02, 2009 12:48 am

Flu is a great killer of Mankind, and is responsible for as much death in the world as war. In some cases, such as the 1918 Spanish Flu, considerably more. But ordinary flu is a mass murderer.

The issue with something like H1N1, the Swine Flu, is that unlike regular flu, it can potentially be more than a mass murderer... the concern is that it can become, like the 1918 flu, or the 1967 flu, a mega-murderer, a single disease that can kill tens, hundreds, or even thousands of millions -yes, billions- of people.

It is not inconceivable that a single flu could reduce the population of the entire planet by a third... or even half. It could make a mockery of the petty little Black Plague of Europe.

It is easy to sneer - 'flu', isn't that just a small thing, like a cold?

No. It is not.

A cold will not ever kill you in and of itself. It could weaken you so that something else could kill you - such as another disease, or your own failing, already weak organs, sure.

Flu can kill you entirely by itself. Or to be more precise, flu makes you kill yourself in an event called a cytokine storm. Your own immune system destroys you in what amounts to the ultimate hay fever reaction. It's pretty horrible. Things die inside your body, slough off, and you cough them up until you choke and die. It can be hemorrhagic. Very nasty.

Flu is especially dangerous also because it is very, very easily transmitted, once it truly becomes infectious between humans. A single cough will fill a zone nine feet in diameter with viruses, in seconds, and those viruses are easily breathed in. They settle on surfaces and crystallize, waiting to be delivered to nose or eye by an unknowing hand. And some can survive for days.

Incubation, for H1N1, is seven days, a week. You can have this flu, spread it to others, and not even know it for an entire week. It will pour out of your saliva, your tears, get on your hands and fingers, and get deposited everywhere. It's in your kiss and in your breath, even if you do not cough. After seven days, it all happens rapidly, and you get very, very sick, very very quickly. You can be permanently damaged by the high fever and other symptoms, even if you live. Loss of memory, vision, hearing, or ability to walk and move are not uncommon. All from flu.

Most flu is very mild, and only kills tens of thousands of people in any given nation every year. About as much as all car accidents, plus a little more. This slaughter is considered mild.

If H1N1 is the real deal, it will not strike until fall. These deaths are nothing, just part of the 'adaptation' phase of the virus as it evolves to become more and more robust in terms of infecting humans, instead of other animals.

If the virus adapts well enough, and remains sufficiently lethal, or even more lethal (as was the case with the 1918 flu, which H1N1 is so far mimicking), then in the fall, in September and October, it will come back after seeming to (mostly) vanish for the summer. If this occurs, then we could see serious fatality, up to and including the extremes I have mentioned.

If we a lucky, only a 100 million would die. That would be good luck in this situation. 100 million.

Will it be you? The person you love most? Everyone you ever knew?

That is why this is a serious matter, and that is why people are worried.
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Re: WHO Warns of Imminent World-Wide Pandemic

Postby Skatche » Sat May 02, 2009 10:50 am

Jennifer, your statistics are inflated. The total number of flu deaths worldwide per year is 500,000, or about .007% of the world's population. Applying that to individual countries, and based on regional variations, we see that really big nations (including, granted, the United States) might see a few tens of thousands of deaths, but in general this is dwarfed by the overall death rate.

By your criteria, other "mass murderers" include:
(a) Tobacco
(b) Cars
(c) Water
(d) Economics (third world starvation, anyone?)
(e) Depression
(f) A number of other diseases that hit a hell of a lot harder, and a hell of a lot more people, than flu (but only in third world countries, so we get to pretend they don't exist)
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Re: WHO Warns of Imminent World-Wide Pandemic

Postby Jennifer Diane Reitz » Sat May 02, 2009 12:05 pm

Skatche wrote:Jennifer, your statistics are inflated.


I weary of this. Perhaps your self-importance is inflated. Check your tires.

Here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Influenza

Asiatic (Russian) Flu.....1889–1890........1 million deaths
Spanish Flu................1918–1920........20 to 100 million deaths
Asian Flu ..................1957–1958........1 to 1.5 million deaths
Hong Kong Flu............1968–1969......... 0.75 to 1 million deaths


Here:
http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/298/16/1945
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in a normal flu season some 200 000 individuals in the United States are hospitalized and 38 000 die of influenza, mostly elderly persons, with annual direct medical costs and lost productivity calculated at $12 billion. However, these figures pale before the catastrophe implied by a severe influenza pandemic. The CDC predicts that a medium-level epidemic would affect a third of the US population, hospitalize 734 000, and kill almost 210 000. With failure to produce an effective vaccine and with a virus untouched by anti-influenza drugs, an epidemic of the H5N1 avian influenza via person-to-person transmission could wreak havoc. With a probable 80 million disease episodes, a 20% mortality rate would result in 16 million deaths. The human tragedy and economic upheaval would be unprecedented.


Here:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/04/28/regular.flu/

(CNN) -- There had been no confirmed deaths in the United States related to swine flu as of Tuesday afternoon. But another virus had killed thousands of people since January and is expected to keep killing hundreds of people every week for the rest of the year.
People are nervous about swine flu, but the regular flu kills 36,000 people a year in the United States.

People are nervous about swine flu, but the regular flu kills 36,000 people a year in the United States.

That one? The regular flu.


Here:

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/us_flu-related_deaths.htm

Regular Flu: CDC estimated that about 36,000 people died of flu-related causes each year, on average, during the 1990s in the United States.

More than war:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1173758/MICHAEL-HANLON-This-bigger-threat-nuclear-warfare.html
In 1918, the 'Spanish Flu' avian flu pandemic (which actually had nothing to do with Spain) probably killed between 50million and 100million, far more than the First World War. If something equally virulent and infectious were to emerge today it is possible that the toll would be even greater.


Here:
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/wideangle/episodes/h5n1-killer-flu/essay-the-next-pandemic/2458/
Yet this level of damage hardly approaches the catastrophe that the United States would face in a severe flu pandemic. The CDC predicts that a “medium-level epidemic” could kill up to 207,000 Americans, hospitalize 734,000, and sicken about a third of the U.S. population.


Here:
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/ ... t-pandemic
forecast the appearance of an influenza virus capable of infecting 40 percent of the world's human population and killing unimaginable numbers. Recently, a new strain, H5N1 avian influenza, has shown all the earmarks of becoming that disease. Until now, it has largely been confined to certain bird species, but that may be changing.



In the event of a major pandemic with a case fatality rate that exceeds 5%, it is my opinion that there will be a temporary breakdown in food delivery, the electric and water utility services, and possibly even public order in major urban areas worldwide. This prediction is based on several factors. First is the marked expansion in the human population since the last major pandemic. In 1918, our population was 1.6 billion and today it is 6.6 billion. Only 17% of the world’s inhabitants lived in urban environments in 1918 and at the time there were only 15 cities with more than one million inhabitants. Today slightly less than half of humanity lives in urban settings that occupy only 3% of the earth’s surface area and there are over 400 cities with a population of over one million.

High population density is a well-known and understood factor favoring epidemics, including influenza. The world has never faced a major pandemic with its population so large or so geographically concentrated. This factor alone makes predicting the magnitude of a major pandemic difficult. The difficulty is not predicting whether these population factors will worsen or lessen the severity of the pandemic. There is no question that it will worsen it, but by how much, we do not know.

Cities are dependent on outside sources for critical supplies including food, power, and water. The provision of these essential goods and services requires the highly coordinated efforts of a large number of people. During a major pandemic, these activities are likely to be interrupted by widespread illness and death. The interdependent nature of modern society increases the risk that a systematic failure could occur due to a domino effect precipitated by the failures of one or two key institutions or resources. In other words, a failure of one critical system leads to the failure of another and so on until the entire system collapses.

Taken together, these factors are likely to result in the temporary disruption in the basic supplies and services we all now take for granted. The resulting chaos would likely be accompanied by a period of temporary anarchy, especially within large urban centers.”

-Dr. Gratton Woodson
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Re: WHO Warns of Imminent World-Wide Pandemic

Postby Skatche » Sat May 02, 2009 6:41 pm

Sorry: I think you misunderstood. I was referring to your statistics about regular flu. Yes, if avian flu were to become a pandemic, its 20% mortality rate (which I base on one of your links there) would be very scary.

If this swine flu were to become a pandemic, its 3% overall death rate (and 0% death rate, so far, outside Mexico) would be an inconvenience.

Please understand that I don't mean to suggest that we'll never face a serious pandemic again. What I am trying to emphasize is that this is not it. Swine flu is simply not a serious threat to humanity, even if avian flu might someday become one. Sensationalist news stories seem to be clouding your judgment here.
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Re: WHO Warns of Imminent World-Wide Pandemic

Postby Coda » Sat May 02, 2009 7:06 pm

Skatche wrote:Sorry: I think you misunderstood. I was referring to your statistics about regular flu. Yes, if avian flu were to become a pandemic, its 20% mortality rate (which I base on one of your links there) would be very scary.

If this swine flu were to become a pandemic, its 3% overall death rate (and 0% death rate, so far, outside Mexico) would be an inconvenience.

Please understand that I don't mean to suggest that we'll never face a serious pandemic again. What I am trying to emphasize is that this is not it. Swine flu is simply not a serious threat to humanity, even if avian flu might someday become one. Sensationalist news stories seem to be clouding your judgment here.


It seems to me like there's no misunderstanding, just miscommunication. She was specifically saying that this flu is very similar to the early stages of the last major epidemic -- specifically, if it DOES follow the earlier pattern, there will be a lull in morbidity followed by the REAL outbreak this fall.
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Re: WHO Warns of Imminent World-Wide Pandemic

Postby strange_person » Sun May 03, 2009 6:48 pm

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