An engineering student’s Blog

” …All of this. All of this was for nothing – unless we go to the stars.” – Infection, Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski

a new influenza A/H1N1 virus has emerged in our modern world

Update :: CNN’s Sanjay Gupta in Mexico City says the rate of deaths from this outbreak seems to be decreasing.

Update :: 50 confirmed cases in the US – 82 world wide, and the world health organization upgraded this situation to a phase 4, that is confirming sustained human-to-human spread.

Update :: Mexicos Health Minister just announced there have been 149 fatalities out of 1995 cases of severse flu, which they are investigating weather it is in fact Swine Flu.  776 patients remain hospitalized.

I just saw on CNN that the number of confirmed cases has just doubled from 20 to 40, although these were already suspect days ago and only confirmed now.  It was intriguing to follow this developing story over the weekend where on Saturday I learned there was a family in Texas and a half dozen cases in southern California with the same virus that shut down schools and public events in Mexico.  Thru to this morning where there are confirmed cases in New York, Kansas and Ohio – as well as New Zealand, Nova Scotia, Scottland, Spain and France.  This morning in Mexico the numbers a saw were 103 dead out of 1614 cases, although these have not all been confirmed to be the new strain, and there may have been more than the reported 1600 cases.  Saturday the number of fatalities in Mexico was 68, the day after 81.  Something I want to see over the next few days is weather the number starts to top off or if the rate continues to grow.

The fatality rate is extremely disturbing if the vast majority of those cases and fatalities can be confirmed to be the new virus, especially since the pattern of infected indicated the young and middle aged rather than the typical elderly and children who are more affected by this new strain of influenza.  This is a hallmark of previous pandemics like the spanish flu of 1918 – which was also an H1N1 virus, but now extinct – where it is believed most fatalities came quickly due to a sort of over reaction of a healthy immune system, a positive feedback loop they call a cytokline storm, or hypercytokinemia.  Although realiable, solid information and analysis is slow to emerge – and the flu and epidemics are difficult to predict.  What we know for sure if that there is a human-to-human transmitted new influenze A virus out there.  We know that the confirmed cases in the US have so far been mild to date – and pending the nature of the rest of the cases just reported in the US by the world health organization.

Its something of a paradox that our modern age of quick and easy transportation can spread a virus like this to distant and diverse populations, but other advances in medicine and our knowledge of these diseases can save us from a catastrophy similar to 1918s influenza, or hopefully mitigate its effect, hopefully not repeat a grim chapter in history.

There is a lot of noise out there and some exageration of the threat as we can scientifically confirm it to date, but one site Ive found helpful in clearifying some things is a blog at Effect Measure – http://scienceblogs.com/effectmeasure/

another useful link is the CDC site on the topic http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu

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