Tuesday, December 29, 2009
While most individuals are continuing to focus on the on-going H1N1 swine flu pandemic, they are generally unaware that a new H5N1 avian flu outbreak is occuring with reported cases in several countries, including 90 reported cases in Egypt alone. At this point, no one knows how severe this new flu outbreak will be. While the 2009 H1N1 swine flu has turned out to not be as severe as feared, health officials warn that at some point we could have a repeat of the 1918-19 Spanish flu -- also known as the "Great Influenza" - which caused more deaths from any single cause in human history. As many as 150 million people worldwide died from the 1918 Spanish flu, 700,000 of these in the U.S. Like the current H1N1 swine flu, what was unique about the 1918 Spanish flu was how young people were more likely to die than adults. It is still unclear what are the characteristics of the even newer H5N1 avian flu outbreak.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 7:21 PM
As of November 14, 2009, the CDC estimates that 34-67 million people in the U.S. had become infected with the H1N1 swine flu, with the best estimate of the likely number of cases being 47 million people. Its best estimates is that of this number 213,000 people ended up being hospitalized for the H1N1 swine flu. In one hospital, 28 of 100 pregnant women in intensive care died from the H1N1 swine flu. While most people did not get seriously ill even though they were infected with the H1N1 swine flu, what has been the greatest concern of health officials has been how in a small number of people it has infected the cells of the lungs of an individual. As the flu cells rapidly mutliply, it causes the cell walls to burst. As of November 14, CDC's best estimate of the number of deaths in the U.S. from the 2009 H1N1 swine flu has been 9,820. Of this number, 7,450 deaths were for individuals aged 18-65 while 1,090 deaths were individuals aged 17 and under. The typical pattern of those individuals who have died from the swine flu has been for them to show signs of getting better - then to suddenly get worse as they develop viral pneumonia. The good news is that since November 14, 2009, the number of H1N1 swine flu cases in the U.S. has been steadily decreasing.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 7:05 PM
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
While all types of the flu are notoriously unpredictable, a new study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health for the federal government indicates that the number of deaths from the current H1N1 swine flu pandemic are likely to be lower than previously predicted. With there currently being over 80 million doses of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine distributed thus far in the U.S., it appears that the worst of the current pandemic might now be past us. This is backed up by recent statistics that show a decrease in hospitalizations from the H1N1 swine flu virus. As a consequence, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health are predicting that the number of deaths in the U.S. from the H1N1 swine flu for the year will range anywhere from 6,000 to 45,000, with the predicted number of deaths likely being in the 10,000-15,000 range. This compares with the previous estimate of 30,000-90,000 deaths in the U.S. for the current H1N1 swine flu pandemic, 34,000 deaths from the 1967-68 flu epidemic, 70,000 deaths from the 1957-58 flu epidemic, and 500,000-750,000 deaths from the 1917 flu pandemic. Other experts caution, however, that in past flu epidemics, there has typically been a late-winter second wave. If this were to occur with the current pandemic, then death rates could be higher. For this reason, all health experts encourage individuals to get vaccinated for the H1N1 swine flu if they have not already done so. Health experts also caution that the current strain of the H1N1 swine flu could still mutate and become more deadly. Finally, even if the overall death rate for the current H1N1 swine flu pandemic is lower than previously predicted, health experts point out that it has nevertheless had an exceptionally higher percentage among young people and pregnant women. For this reason, the H1N1 swine flu pandemic continues to be a continuing health crisis.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 9:15 PM
Thursday, November 19, 2009
From a policy perspective, three new events have emerged with respect to the public response to the H1N1 swine flu. One is the realization that public health officials have been under-reporting the number of infected people, hospitalizations and deaths. This has since been corrected so that it is now estimated that 22 million people have thus far contracted the H1N1 swine flu. This contracting of data has also resulted in the CDC reporting that they now people that we have had 540 pediatric deaths (i.e. youth 18 years and younger) and 4000 overall deaths from the H1N1 swine flu thus far. This is a wake-up call - since it is a significantly larger number of deaths and infected persons than had previously been reported.
The second policy event that has emerged is the realization that significantly less than the projected amount of H1N1 swine flu vaccine has been produced and distributed. Because what has been distributed as been freely distributed to almost anyone who wanted it given the assumption that there would be an ample supply, the result is that many (if not most) of the people at the highest risk of death from the H1N1 swine flu have not been able to receive the vaccine as promised. This is the opposite experience in Europe and other developed countries where the flu vaccine is being distributed through appointments so that all individuals at the highest risk of death receive the vaccine first. In the U.S., however, basically no priority has been given to those individuals at the highest risk - leaving high risk individuals to do what they can to find the vaccine given the chaotic distribution system in the U.S. and the resultant long lines where often more people are turned away than receive the vaccine.
The third policy even that has emerged is a realization that the U.S. errored in not developing U.S. manufacturing capacity, and instead relying upon foreign company suppliers. In this regard, because the U.S. had been reduced to only one licensed flu vaccine manufacturer in the United States when the H1N1 swine flu pandemic hit - the U.S. turned to overseas manufacturers to provide the additional required supply of the H1N1 swine fluvaccine. Unfortunately, signing up new manufacturers led to unexpected production problems. Also, the use of overseas manufacturers led to the unexpected problem of Canada and Australia block the shipment of the contracted for vaccines to the U.S. until such time as the total vaccine demand for their own countries could be filled. All of this led to the current crisis where the federal govenment expected to deliver 120 million doses of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine by mid-October, but was only able to deliver 28 million doses by mid-October.
Together, these new policy issues raise significant questions as to what should be done to correct this problem of not enough vaccine being available and of the fact that the highest risk individuals are not being given priority, and thus are not receiving the vaccine (which predictably will lead to a higher death rate than what otherwise would be the case). All of these new policy issues also raise the question as to how the government should respond if the high number of H1N1 swine flu hospitalizations and deaths continue - or even increase - as we get into December and January. There are also two even more frightening possibilties. One is that the H1N1 swine flu mutates, so that we need to produce a new vaccine - or that experience shows that a second shot needs to be given. But the even more frightening possibilitiy is the potential for the H1N1 swine flu to mutate and merge with the Avian flu virus, since the H1N1 swine flu actually already contains elements from the Avian flu virus. This would be a disastrous scenario since the current death rate for the Avian flu virus is that 70 percent of the people who contract it die from it.
Following are the companies currently licensed by the U.S. to produce the H1N1 swine flu vaccine for distribution in the U.S.:
(1) Sanofi Pasteur is located in the United States in Pennsylvania. It has produced 50 percent of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine thus far distributed in the U.S. It is the great success story of the vaccine suppliers for the U.S.
(2) CSL is located in Australia. It "was" expected to be one of the primary suppliers of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine to the U.S., but was blocked by the government of Austrialia from shipping any vaccine to the U.S. until all of the demand in Australia was satisfied.
(3) GlaxoSmithKline is another company contracted to supply the vaccine and is located in Canada. Unfortunately, the Canada govenment blocked it from supplying any of its H1N1 swine flu vaccine to the American market until demand in Canada was fully satisfied.
(4) Novartis Vaccines is located in Liverpool, England. It was also expected to be one of the primary supplies of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine to the U.S., but encountered production problems. It nevertheless has shipped 18 million vaccine doses to the U.S.
(5) Medimmune is the principal producer of the nasal mist form of the vaccine and has shipped all of the 42 million doses of the nasal mist vaccine it was contracted to supply - but a significant amount of the supplies shipped to the U.S. have yet to be distributed.
One additional issue that has arisen is the fact that all other industrialized countries have contracted for an "adjuvanted" version of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine. This allows for a quadruple the amount of vaccine that can be produced and has the added benefit of potentially providing for protection in case the H1N1 swine flu virus mutates. Even though the use of the adjuvant was approved for use in Europe as far back as 1999, the FDA in the U.S. has yet to license its use in the U.S. Ironically, the U.S. has purchased a large supply of the adjuvant that it is not using - but is keeping in storage in Louisville, Kentucky. Given the shortage of vaccine in the U.S. and the unexected number of people infected this early in the season with the H1N1 swine flu, many urge that the U.S. shift to the use of an adjuvant vaccine.
Monday, November 16, 2009
5 Reported Cases In U.S. of Guillame-Barre Syndrome As Adverse Reaction and Complication From H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine
H1N1 Swine Flu Update As Of November 16, 2009 --This past week a Washington, D.C. television station aired the story of a student in Northern Virgina who came down with Guillame-Barre Syndrome a day after receiving both the H1N1 swine flu and seasonal flu vaccines. The day after receiving the vaccines, he developed severe muscle twitches and spasms and became partially paralyzed. While he is recovering, he has to use a walker to enable him to walk until he recovers more fully. Commenting on the story in a television interview, the Director of the National Institutes of Health confirmed that there have been 5 cases thus far in the U.S. of individuals developing Guillame-Barre Syndrome after receiving the H1N1 swine flu vaccine. He explained, however, that the government has never stated that the H1N1 swine flu vaccine was totally safe. Instead, he explained that it is a matter of balancing risks - and that the risk of death for young people and high-risk individuals from contracting the H1N1 swine flu is much greater than the risk of any adverse reaction or complication from the vaccine. To support his argument, European countries have reported a doubling of the number of pediatric deaths frm the H1N1 swine flu in just 4 days while the number of pediatric deaths from the H1N1 swine flu in the United States has risen from 144 a week ago to 540 - or over a three-fold increase in just a week. To put such a high number of pediatric deaths from the H1N1 swine flu in perspective, in a normal flu season there are only a total of 80 of pediatric deaths during an entire flu season -- yet here the flu season has just begun and there is already 540 pediatric deaths from the H1N1 swine flu. Pediatric deaths are defined as deaths of young people 18 years and younger. During a typical flu season, 90 percent of the individuals seeking medical treatment are age 65 or older. With the current H1N1 swine flu pandemic, however, 90 percent of the individuals seeking medical treatment are under the age of 65. This makes the H1N1 swine flu more like the 1918 flu pandemic than seasonal flu outbreaks. Thus far, health officials estimate that 22 million Americans have contracted the H1N1 swine flu. Of this number, it is estimated that 8 million have been young people 18 years or younger, with 36,000 of these young people requiring hospitalization and 540 dying. It is for this reason, the Director of the National Institutes of Health argues, that the benefits of receiving the H1N1 swine flu vaccine and being protected greatly outweigh the risks of receiving the vaccine.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Child Deaths and Hospitalizations from H1N1 Swine Flu Continues To Rise - Update as of Monday, Nov. 9, 2009
The vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths from the H1N1 swine flu continues to be children, with the total of each increasing with every week. This past week, there were 15 child deaths confirmed by lab results as being from the H1N1 swine flu and 3 additional child deaths that were problably from the H1N1 swine flu. Since just August 30, 2009 (i.e. since school has stated), there have been a total of 80 childhood deaths in the U.S. from the H1N1 swine flu virus. And since the flu pandemic first broke in April, there have been a total of 144 child deaths. On a local level, the news hits communities hard. As an example, a 9 year old died of the swine flu in Oklahoma City while a 23 month old child died of the swine flu in Oklahoma City. In Chattanoogoa, Tennessee, a child has recently died of the swine flu while 3 others are ill from the swine flu. Everyone, are heart-breaking stories of children dying from the H1N1 swine flu, even though normally the flu is a disease that does not affect the yung. Meanwhile, as one can see from the data, the number of hospitalizations and deaths of young children who have contracted the H1N1 swine flu continues to risk with every week. Also, 99 percent of all flu cases laboratory tested have been confirmed to be the H1N1 swine flu. Clearly, the United States if facing an unprecedented public health crisis where it is still too early to confirm just how deathly this current flu pandemic will turn out to be. As to it being a pandemic, there is no doubt, as infections from the H1N1 swine flu are widespread throughout the United States and the world. Of great concern continues to be the severe shortage of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine. The CDC has originally projected to have 140 million does of the vaccine by mid-October (i.e for a population of 350 million). By the middle of October, however, the CDC had only delivered some 14 million does and as of the latest update, it has only shipped slightly over 26 million does. This leaves an insufficient supply of the vaccine -- even for those individuals at the highest risk and who thus should have been able to receive the vaccine by now. Some individuals are now wondering whether the opening of schools should have been delayed until there was a sufficient number of doses of the vaccine to vaccinate young school-age children, especially since they are experiencing the great deaths. This presents a moral deilemmia for many parents as to whether they should send their children to school when they know their school has experienced a number of H1N1 swine flu illnesses, and thus risk the life of their children. Meanwhile, protectors in New York and elsewere have protested the fact that Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs have been given supplies of the vaccine to give to their employees at times when local health departments report having no supplies and schools are reporting that they have yet to receive any vaccine to vaccine their children.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
A study of 1,088 people hospitalized from the H1N1 swine flu in California between August 11-23 indicates for the first time why and what people are dying from the H1N1 swine flu. In this regard, the study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, indicated that 11 percent, or 118 patients died. Nearly a third of the hospitalized patients had no underlying health conditions. What was surprising, however, was that 20 percent of all patients 50 years of age or older died from the H1N1 swine flu while only 2 percent of those patients 18 years or younger died of the H1N1 swine flu. This does not change the previously observed phenomenon that more younger people are contracting the H1N1 swine flu, indicating that potentially people 50 years or older have some limited immunity. But of those patients 50 years of age or older who have to be hospitalized from the H1N1 swine flu, for some reason they have by far the highest death rate. The study also indicated that 30 percent of all patients, or 340 patients, who were hospitalized had to be treated in intensive care. Despite the significantly higher death rates among elderly persons hospitalized from the H1N1 swine flu, the CDC has announced that it will continue to give priority to vaccinating young people because of their higher rate of contracting the virus.
Monday, November 2, 2009
The above map produced by the CDC shows that essentially all people with flu symptoms in the United States and Canada have tested positive for the 2009 H1N1 swine flu. This confirms what health officials have been saying - which is that the seasonal influenza has yet to emerge and that if you have flu symptoms you are almost certain to have the 2009 H1N1 swine flu. Meanwhile, Dr. Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), reported that there was a significant upsurge in child H1N1 swine flu deaths with many more likely to occur over the coming weeks and months. Just this last week alone, there were 114 child deaths of the H1N1 swine flu, the largest weekly total since the flu outbreak occured back in April. He indicated that clearly the H1N1 swine flu is become more virulent and widespread throughout the population, and especially among the young now that children have returned to school. Unfortunately, he also had to report that the last 234,000 doses of liquid Tamiflu have been released from the national stockpile. Tamiflu is an antiviral medicine which, if given at the first symptoms of the flu, can reduce its severity. Unfortunately, young children cannot take the capsule form of Tamiflu that adults can. Instead, young children must take the liquid form. Hence, the fact that the last supplies of liquid Tamiflu have had to be released from the national stockpile raises concerns as to how to treat young people who contract the H1N1 swine flu after the supply of Tamiflu runs out. Older children and adults can also take Relenza, a similar antiviral medicine. But children 7 years of younger or older children with asthma or other respiratory conditions cannot take Relenza. Totally, the World Health Organization now reports over 5,000 deaths from the H1N1 swine flu, with Iceland and Sudan just reporting there first deaths from the H1N1 swine flu. The vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths, however, have been in North America (i.e. the United States, Canada and Mexico). In North America, it has also been reported that otherwise health young adults and adults up to the age of 50 for some reason are also experiencing a high percentage of hospitalizations and deaths. This is contrary to earlier reports which had thought that only older children and adults with underlying health conditions had died. More comprehensive statistics, indicate, however, that many young adults and adults up to age 50 with no underlying health conditions are being hospitalized and dying. As an example, two young adults of 18 years old with no underlying health conditions died at the end of this past week in Maryland. In response to the large number of students absent with flu symptoms, the number of school closings across the country because of the swine flu continues to rise, with Grafton High School in Boston being the last school to close. A recent study of the Brookings Institution that such school closings because of the H1N1 swine flu could cost the country between $10 and $47 billion. Schools across the country are cancelling programs to award students at the end of the school year for perfect attendance records in an effort to shift priorties to encouraging students to remain home if they are ill. Similar programs to emphasize attendance less and to encourage sick employees to stay home are being undertake by hospitals and other business employers who can ill afford to have their work forces devastated with a large number of absences at once. Also, airlines are becoming more lenient on offering refunds or waiving re-booking fees for air travelers who feel they cannot make their flights because of flu-like symptoms.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
A recent study by Purdue University has predicted that 63 percent of the U.S. population will become infected with the H1N1 swine flu. Of this amount, 40 percent are predicted to become ill. This translates into an estimated 25 percent of the U.S. population who are predicted to become ill with the H1N1 swine flu. Already, the number of people sick with the H1N1 swine flu is greater than the normal peak for a typical flu season. This is despite that the normal peak for flu cases for a normal season is in January, and it is only October and we already have a greater number of H1N1 swine flu cases than during the peak of a typical flu season. This has caught health officials by surprise as they had not expected this many cases of the H1N1 swine flu this early in the flu season. Also of concern is the fact that there are currently available significantly less amounts of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine than had been expected to be available. As a result, some health officials are predicting that there could be as many as 90,000 deaths in the U.S. from the H1N1 swine flu. This contrasts with a normal flu season where there are typically 36,000 deaths in the U.S. from the flu. Also of concern is the fact that most deaths from the normal strain of flu are among the elderly. With the current epidemic of the H1N1 swine flu, however, the greatest number of hospitalizations and deaths have been among school-aged children and pregnant women. For this reason, the young, pregnant women and all other individuals at high risk for the H1N1 swine flu are urged to get vaccinated as soon as supplies of the vaccination become available. For some reason as yet to be understood, some regions of the country are being particularly hit hard with the H1N1 swine flu pandemic and are having to close schools because of the high rate of illness. Only a hundred miles away, however, another city might be only experiencing mild rates of illness. Also, some school systems and local health agencies have already vaccinated a large number of people while other school systems and local health agencies had not planned on ordering a significant amount of vaccinations this early in the flu season. As a consequence, the severity of the H1N1 swine flu is expected to continue to vary significantly from one area to another. Increasingly, however, more and more people know someone who has been sick with the swine flu - or have become sick themselves. As an example, AOL's reporter for the H1N1 swine flu recently reported that he and his children have all come down with the H1N1 swine flu while it is believed that his wife had been sick with the H1N1 swine flu. As another example, my mother who is a nurse as a co-worker who had a child that had to be hospitalized with what is believed to have been the H1N1 swine flu. One really begins to appreciate how many people are ill with the H1N1 swine flu when one goes to a hospital or one's doctor's office and one sees all the individuals there ill with the flu - and one is told first-hand stories of how many sick people the doctors and hospitals are currently treating with the H1N1 flu. Some doctors are reporting seeing as many as 40 or more patients a day ill with the flu.
Friday, October 23, 2009
The CDC reports that since the school season began in September, one out of every five students have thus far contracted the H1N1 swine flu, resulting in millions of school children that have thus far been infected. It also reports that the number of infected cases doubles about every 10 days.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 3:49 AM
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Mr. Greg Walden, a congressman from Oregon, has announced through representatives that he has contracted the H1N1 swine flu. Mr. Walden is the first congressman to contract the H1N1 swine flu.
During an interview on C-Span3 today, Dr. Beth Bell, Deputy Chief Health Officer for the H1N1 flu for the CDC stated that the amount of H1N1 swine flu being experienced this early in the flu season is unprecedented. Typically, this early in the flu season one does not see the amount of flu cases currently being experienced. Almost all of the flu cases thus far experienced have been of the H1N1 swine flu variety. Meanwhile, during congressional testimony yesterday, the CDC indicated that there are significant shortages of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine as production has lagged behind what was the hoped for amount to be available by now.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
The World Health Organization has stated that one thing that is becoming increasingly clear about the H1N1 swine flu - which is it's ability to cause serious illness and deaths among otherwise very healthy individuals. Experts stress that most people who contract the H1N1 swine flu will become only mildly ill. But some adults and young people, and especially women, are becoming extremely ill "at an unexpectedly rapid pace and are dying in unusually high numbers." "It's not like seasonable flu," Nikki Shindo of the World Health Organization said at a meeting in Washington, D.C. "It can cause very severe disease n previously healthy young adults." What is particularly troubling is how, in a select number of cases, the disease penetrates deep into the tissues of the lungs, causing death or intensive care hospitalizations that can last up to three months. This makes it more similar to the deadly Avian Flu which similarly attacks lung tissue than the normal seasonal flu which only affects the upper respiratory system. "It's like the avaian flu on steroids," said Sherif Zaki, chief of Infectious Disease Pathology at the CDC. The World Health Organizations' warning came as the CDC reported that the death toll from the H1N1 swine flu among children has risen to 86, well over the total number of pediatric deaths one would expect for an entire year from the seasonal flu, even though the current spike in the H1N1 swine flu has only been ongoing for about three weeks now. Also, it now appears that as many as half of the adults hospitalized for the H1N1 swine flu have been otherwise totally health adults. An example is the case of Karen Ann Hays of Sacremento, California, an otherwise healthy 51 year old adult female whose hobby was participating in triathlons. Despite desperate measures taken to treat her, she died in July within days of contracting the swine flu. Another example is the case of 30 year old Stacey Hernandez of Madison, California, who died of the H1N1 swine flu in July. She "was in great shape. She was on the softball teams. She had two young children. She was reovating her house," said her mother. The Washington Post reports that according to medical researchers, it appears that about 1 percent of those individuals contracting the H1N1 swine flu require hospitalization, between 12 to percent of those hospitalized required intensive care, and 15 to 40 percent of those in intensive care die from the H1N1 swine flu. Meanwhile, the CDC reports significant delays in the manufacture of the H1N1 swine flu vaccination. The CDC also reports that at least 2,914 people in the U.S. have died from flu-related illness (i.e. probably the H1N1 swine flu) since the H1N1 swine flu epidemic began. Testing has shown that approximately 99 percent of people who have been tested for the H1N1 swine flu - have had the H1N1 swine flu - with it appearing that almost all current cases of the flu are the H1N1 swine flu at this point in the flu season.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Because drug companies have been trying to produce both seasonal and H1N1 swine flu vaccines, the CDC has reported a severe shortage of both - with quantities of both being significantly less than expected. Most areas are reporting that providers have run out of season flu vaccines just as many families are seeking to have their family members vaccinated.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 4:14 PM
Cleveland Cavalier basketball star Le Bron James has just returned to practicing after recovering from what is believed to have been the H1N1 swine flu. At least 2 other team members are believed to have also contracted the H1N1 swine flu.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 4:10 PM
The CDC has reported a total of 86 pediatric deaths thus far from the H1N1 swine flu and a total of 50 deaths from the H1N1 swine flu during the past week. The number of pediatric deaths frome the swine flu in just the past two weeks exceeds the number of pediatric deaths typically experienced in an entire flu season. Some doctors are reporting the treating of as many as 40 H1N1 swine flu patients per day. At this rate, one prediction is that there will be approximately 90,000 total deaths in the U.S. from the H1N1 swine flu this winter, compared to the 36,000 deaths that occur in a normal flu season.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 4:07 PM
The CDC has reported that there are significant delays in the delivery of the swine flu as the manufacturer of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine has not been able to deliver as many doses as expected. Totally, there is expected to be 10-11 million less doses of the swine flu vaccine available than had been expected by the end of this month. Also, contrary to previous indications, half of adults hospitalized for the swine flu have been otherwise healthy and have not had underlying health conditions. Medical experts report significantly more cases of influenza cases than normal for this time of year - with the number of cases similar to the peak of a typical influenza season. 99 percent of current cases of the influenza have been determined to be the H1N1 swine flu.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 3:57 PM
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
During testimony before a Congressional committee today, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Servics was asked how serious was the current H1N1 swine flu epidemic. To answer and put the problem in perspective, she explained that there are typically 36,000 deaths per year in the U.S. from the seasonal flu. This is despite the fact that most of us have at least some immunity from the seasonal flu - and a vaccine is offered every year for the seasonal. From the seasonal flu, most deaths are among the elderly or those with immune diseases such as AIDS. As such, she explained that we should probably expect as a minimum a similar number of 36,000 deaths this year from the H1N1 swine flu. This is especially the case since the infection rate for the swine flu seems to be higher than for the seasonal flu. The difference is that with the swine flu, the vast majority of deaths are expected to be among school age children. Since the population has no prior immunity to the H1N1 swine flu, however, it is reasonable to expect that the death rate for it will be even higher than for the typical seasonal flu. Also, the H1N1 swine flu is clearly sweeping through college campuses at a time when it will be at least a month before the vaccine for it can start to be administered.
During a typical flu season, approximately 200,000 Americans are hospitalized for treatment of the flu. As we enter this year's flu season, however, the White House has predicted that as many as 1.8 million Americans might be hospitalized during the peak of the swine flu outbreak this fall and winter. Of this 1.8 million, as many as 300,000 Americans might require intensive care for treatment of the H1N1 swine flu. If this scenario occurs, it is predicted that this would overwhelm and swamp the capacity of U.S. hospitals, using up 100 percent of hospital bed capacity. Health officials are currently looking at contingencies to deal with this potential severe shortage of hospital bed capacity. Of concern is the fact that the H1N1 swine flu is predicted to affect - and in fact is already affecting - a much greater portion of the population than that which is normally afflicted with the typical seasonal flu. On the positive side, Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, reported that just today the FDA approved the vaccine for the H1N1 swine flu, allowing the government to proceed forward with its manufacturer and distribution. The vaccine is expected to be available in mid-October and potentially 7 to 10 days earlier for those individuals at the highest risk for the H1N1 swine flu. Distribution of the swine flu vaccine will be determined by plans developed by each of the state health departments.
Monday, September 14, 2009
The CDC reports that there have been 593 deaths thus far in the United States from the H1N1 swine flue epdemic. This is second only to Brazil which reports 657 deaths thus far from the H1N1 swine flu.
In what is the largeest H1N1 swine flu outbreak todate on a college campus, Washington State University reports some 2,500 students has probably having come down with the H1N1 swine flu.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 9:17 PM
According to the Dothan Eagle in Dothan, Alabama, 18 year old Andrew Salter, a student at Troy University, died on Friday, September 11, 2009 at Southeast Alabama Medical Center from complications possibly related to the H1N1 swine flu. H was diagnosed as having the flu on September 3 and was treated with Tamiflu. After getting better, however, he developed pneumonia and was admitted to the hospital on Monday, September 7th. As of August 19, 2009 there are 217 suspected cases of the swine flu in Houston County and 1,587 statewide in Alabama.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 9:02 PM
A University of Maryland official has confirmed that suspected cases of the H1N1 swine flu among students have increased from 64 to 172.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 8:52 PM
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
According to the Washington Post, more than half of the nation's colleges and universities are reporting cases of the H1N1 swine flu. In the first week of classes alone, more than 1,600 cases of the H1N1 swine flu have been reported on the nation's college and university campuses.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
TV personality and host Rachel Maddow announced that she has recently recovered from a bout of the swine flu. Also recently recovered from the swine flu is the President of the country of Costa Rica while the President of the country of Columbia announced that he has recently contracted the swine flu after visiting Argentina for a meeting of South American leaders.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 7:04 PM
Saturday, August 29, 2009
The number of swine flu cases has decreased in the United States during the summer months as one would expect with flu outbreaks. For some reason, however, swine flu cases have been widespread in the states of Georgia and Alaska, despite the fact that this it is summer and not the typical period when one would expect a high number of flu cases. As of August 27, 2009, the CDC reports that since the outbreak of the H1N1 swine flu in the spring, there have been confirmed cases of 8,843 hospitalizations and 556 deaths in the United States.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 8:57 PM
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
On Tuesday, August 11, 2009, Dr. Richard Hatchett, White House Medical Preparedness Policy Director, spoke at a conference in Arlington, Virginia about the H1N1 swine flu epidemic. As background, he explained that the H1N1 flu has been in the U.S. for the last 30 years - but that the current strain of H1N1 swine flu is significantly different than previously existing strains. He also described how the U.S. has experienced three prior flu pandemics - the most famous being the 1918 flu epidemic, but with another occurring in 1957 and another in the mid-1960's. What we should learn from these previous flu pandemics, according to Dr. Hatchett, is that such pandemics are inevitably multi-year events with the flu increasing in the fall and spring, diminishing during the summer, and then typically returning the next fall and spring - with this continuing for two or more years. For this reason, he emphasized that the development of a vaccine for the H1N1 swine flu is important even if it is not available when the flu returns in the fall. According to Dr. Hatchett, best estimates are that thus far since the H1N1 swine flu appeared this past April, somewhere between 1.5 to 10 million people in the U.S. have been infected with the swine flu (i.e. significantly more than the actual confirmed cases). He also estimates that thus far there have been 436 deaths thus far in the U.S. Because of the wide variation on estimates of the number of people that have been infected with the swine flu, it is impossible at this point to estimate how virulent the current case of the H1N1 swine flu is in terms of mortality rate. What is exceptional about the current pandemic of the H1N1 swine flu, however, is how 50 percent of cases have been in people between age 5 and 24, with the age 25 to 49 having the next highest rate of cases. Also, 60 percent of the hospitalizations have been of young people in the 5 to 24 age group. This is in contrast with the normal flu where the highest incidence of illness is in the age 4 or younger or age 65 or older age groups. Also, normal strains of the flu infect approximately 5 percent of the population over a flu season. In a little over a month in the spring, however, it is estimated that 10 percent of the population of New York City became infected with the swine flu. Thus it is possible that the H1N1 will eventually affect a signficantly greater portion of the population than the normal flu. Coupled with the fact that the H1N1 swine flu also dramatically affects the young at a greater rate than the normal flu, this raises grave concerns about the eventual impacts of the H1N1 swine flu. Currently, the highest "intensity" of the H1N1 swine flu has been in Argentina and Chile in the southern hemisphere where they are currently in the peak of their flu season (i.e. where it is currently in the middle of their winter). Next in "intensity" have been the experiences thus far of Mexico and Canada. While the United States has a signficantly highest "intensity" of the pandemic thus far than most countries, it still has experienced a mild intensity compared with Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Canada. Thus far the H1N1 swine flu pandemic has hit the western hemisphere the hardest, with the exception of Great Britain which has also been hard hit by the swine flu. In summary, flu pandemics have caused a significant number of deaths and social disruption in the past, and there is no reason to believe that the current H1N1 swine flu pandemic will not have a similar affect as demonstrated by the experience of countries like Argentina in the southern hemisphere currently and by Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. this past spring. If the current H1N1 swine flu pandemic is like past flu pandemics, it will be a multi-year challenge for our society to respond to with the greatest challenge for the U.S. still to come this coming fall and spring flu seasons, and possibly during the flu seasons of the following year as well. What could mitigate the impact of the current H1N1 swine flu pandemic, however, is how quickly we can develop and distribute an effective vaccine.
Monday, August 10, 2009
According to the Washington Post dated August 10, there were 19,273 reported cases of the swine flu for the period April 24 thru June 3, then an additional 70,648 reported cases from the period from June 4 to July 3, and then an additional 72,459 reported cases from the period from July 4 to August 4. This demonstrates that despite the fact that the swine flu seems to have retreated from the public's consciousness, actually the number of swine flu cases has steadily increased each month. Countries with the largest number of deaths are the United States, Canada, Mexico and Britain in the Northern Hemisphere. As the swine flu has now spread to the Southern Hemisphere, a large number of deaths from the swine flu have also been reported in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Australia. According to the Washington Post, a new round of the swine flu "could hit the Northern Hemisphere within weeks and lead to major disruptions in schools, workplaces and hospitals, according to U.S. and International health officials. 'The virus is still around and ready to explode,' said William Schaffner, an influenza expert at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. 'We're potentially looking at a very big mess.' "
Posted by Rick Hopper at 8:22 PM
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Today it was announced that 5 Congressional pages have been determined to have the swine flu. To prevent further spreading, the remaining Congressional pages have been quarantined. This reminds us what health officials have been telling us - which is that the swine flu epidemic is not over and that, in fact, we should expect increased cases and more severe cases and deaths from the H1N1 swine flu than we have experienced thus far. In summary, we have a long road to go in dealing with the swine flu and the worst is still likely to occur with the flu season this coming fall. It is also possible that the H1N1 swine flu break will last more than one year. As Bob Woodrow of the Washington Post has commented, the H1N1 swine flu outbreak is still very possible to become the biggest news story of this year.
From what we presently know about the H1N1 swine flu, it does not seem to be more deadly than the regular flu. This is not necessary cause for relief, however, as already approximately half of the states report deaths from the swine flu - and a large number of deaths annually occur from the normal flu. What is different about the H1N1 swine flu, however, is how teens and young adults seem to be more susceptible to severe cases and even death than infants or the elderly as is the case with the normal flu strains. In this way, the H1N1 swine flu is more like the 1918 world-wide influenza that killed approximately 100 million people than normal seasonal flu outbreaks. Also, like the 1918 influenza, the current H1N1 swine flu is spreading very rapidly during the summer months - i.e. during what is normally a period of drop off of the spread of normal flu. This could mean that the swine flu this fall is likely to be much more severe than what has occurred thus far.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 3:42 PM
A potential vaccine for the swine flu is presently being tested for safety and efficacy. The problem is that it would then need to be manufactured and administered in huge quantities by September. The reason for the September deadline is because, even after being given a flu vaccine, it takes 6-8 weeks for the body to build up its immune system to fight the flu after being given the vaccine. Since the peak flu season is typically from November to January, one can count backwards and figure out that the flu vaccine needs to be administered by September.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 3:37 PM
Denmark has reported a case of an individual where the swine flu has shown to have developed a resistance to anti-viral drugs such as Tamiflu. This is a significant program as we approach the fall flu season. Normally in any given flu season, about half of the population has a resistance to whatever is the current flu. This will not be the case where instead, perhaps only three percent or less of the population will have any resistance to the H1N1 swine flu. Even if the swine flu is no more virulent than any other flu outbreak, this would mean that we should expect a larger outbreak of the H1N1 swine flu simply because the population has no natural immunity or resistance to it.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 3:33 PM
Sunday, July 19, 2009
The Centers for Disease Control has now reported 263 deaths and over 40,000 confirmed cases of the swine flu in the U.S. In some areas, the CDC has indicated that the outbreak has been severe while in other areas the outbreak has been mild. Unlike typical flu outbreaks, the swine flu outbreak in the U.S. has continued into the summer. Meanwhile, in the southern hemisphere where they are just beginning their winter season, the number of swine flu cases has increased. In an interview on the Charlie Rose show, Washington Post writer Bob Woodward (famous for, among other things, his breaking of the Watergate story in the 1970's)when asked what is the biggest current news story that everyone is missing indicated that, while reporting of the swine flu has diminished, the swine flu might eventually become the biggest news story of 2009 if the number of cases and deaths increase in the coming fall and winter.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 9:32 PM
Friday, June 5, 2009
Confirmed cases of the swine flu have now been reported in all states and the District of Columbia. In 5 states -- Arizona, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware - the swine flu has been classified as geographically wide-spread through the entire state. Deaths from the swine flu have now been reported in the following states: 4 in Arizona, 1 in Connecticut, 5 in Illinois, 1 in Michigan, 1 in Missouri, 8 in New York, 3 in Texas, 2 in Utah, 1 in Virginia and 1 in Washington.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 6:56 PM
Sunday, May 17, 2009
In it's latest update on the swine flu outbreak dated May 15, 2009, the CDC has stated that: "It is uncertain at this time how severe this novel H1N1 outbreak will be in terms of illness and death compared with other influenza viruses. Because this is a new virus, most people will not have immunity to it, and illness maybe more severe and widespread as a result. In addition, currently there is no vaccine to protect against this novel H1N1 virus. CDC anticipates that there will be more cases, more hospitalizations, and more deaths associated with this new virus in the coming days and weeks." The CDC reports that there have now been 4 deaths and 4,714 confirmed cases. The CDC in its latest report has indicated that the virus has become geographically widespread in the following states: Virginia, New Jersey, California, Texas, Georgia, Alabama, and Arizona.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Confirmed cases of the swine flu has now been reported by the CDC in all states except for Alaska, Monta, Wyoming and North Dakota. South Dakota has joined the states where confirmed cases of the swine flu have now been reported.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
The CDC has confirmed that there are now approximately 600 more swine flu cases since yesterday -- for over 2,200 confirmed cases of the swine flu as of the current time. Meanwhile, a third death in the U.S. from the swine flu has been confirmed - i.e. a Seattle, Washington man.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 2:32 AM
Friday, May 8, 2009
Confirmed Cases of Swine Flu in U.S. Double in One Day -- Demonstrating Its Rapid Spread Through Population
Yesterday, the CDC reported a little over 800 confirmed cases of the swine flu. Today, the CDC reported 1,639 confirmed cases of the swine flu - or a doubling of confirmed cases in one day. This demonstrates how rapidly the swine flu is spreading among the population in the U.S.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
The National Institutes of Health has announced that they hope to have a swine flu vaccine developed and available by mid to late fall. This means that the swine flu vaccine will not be available in September when students in the United States first return to school. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has announced that potentially 3 billion people worldwide could come down with the swine flu. In contrast, phamaceutical companies are estimated to only be able to make 400 million swine flu vaccinations over the next six months. This is because of the limited capacity of the pharmaceutical companies and the labor intensive nature of making each individual dose of the vaccine. Each dose has to be incubated on a live chicken egg, and is not as simple as producing some large quantity of some chemical formulation.
Yesterday the CDC reported 642 confirmed cases of the swine flu in the U.S. Today, the CDC reports that this number has increased to 896 confirmed cases in the U.S., an increase of more than 250 more confirmed cases in one day. The CDC continues to predict more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths from the novel A flu outbreak (i.e. H1N1 swine flu outbreak).
Posted by Rick Hopper at 5:51 PM
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Above is a map of confirmed cases by the CDC of the H1N1 swine flu in the United States (click on map to see a larger version). The CDC has now confirmed 642 cases in 41 states, and two deaths thus far in the U.S. Hawaii now joins the list of states reporting confirmed cases of the swine flu. The CDC stated today that:
"The ongoing outbreak of novel influenza A (H1N1) continues to expand in the U.S. CDC expects that more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths from this outbreak will occur in the coming days and weeks."
In Mexico, it has been confirmed that most hospitalizations were individuals in their twenties (i.e. healthy young adults). The second U.S. death was a health young adult woman. In addition to cases confirmed by the CDC, suspected and probable cases reported by the various states continues to increase. In the Washington, D.C. area, Prince Georges County has now reported two cases of swine flu.
"The ongoing outbreak of novel influenza A (H1N1) continues to expand in the U.S. CDC expects that more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths from this outbreak will occur in the coming days and weeks."
In Mexico, it has been confirmed that most hospitalizations were individuals in their twenties (i.e. healthy young adults). The second U.S. death was a health young adult woman. In addition to cases confirmed by the CDC, suspected and probable cases reported by the various states continues to increase. In the Washington, D.C. area, Prince Georges County has now reported two cases of swine flu.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 11:21 PM
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
The CDC has reported that there are now 279 cases of swine flu in 36 cases. Meanwhile, the WHO has moved its pandemic alert to level 6. New York now has 73 confirmed cases, Texas 41, California 30, Delaware 20, Arizona 17, and South Carolina 15 - with these being the states with the most confirmed cases. Idaho has joined the list of states reporting confirmed cases. More schools have closed because of the swine flu, while other schools have remained open despite confirmed cases. As an example, George Washngton University in Washington, D.C. now has 4 students with confirmed cases of the swine flu, yet has remained open. Many schools are reluctant to close because of AP exams and state standard of learning tests that are given at this time of year. It continues to almost be impossible to find face masks in drug stores. The good news is that there is still only one reported death in the United States from the swine flu. The bad news is that, just as in Mexico, the swine flu seems to hit healthy young teens and young adults the hardest. This is similar to the 1918 flu pandemic. What worries health officials is that in the U.S., the swine flu will potentially come back in the fall and cause the most deaths. This is the pattern that the 1918 flu outbreak took. Also, the swine flu is attacking at a time which is not normally the flu season. Finally, of concern is the lack of a vaccine to protect people from the outbreak. This is of concern because, even with a normal flu season where many people are protected by a vaccine, there are still typically 200,000 plus hospitalizations and approximately 35,000 deaths. People that have not had the flu often under-estimate how significant of a disease it is, thinking it is like a cold or a 24 hour stomach virus. But the full-blown flu can be a devastating illness for many people and even the normal flu is a significant cause of deaths in the U.S. every year.
Friday, May 1, 2009
Swine Flu School Closures - 35 States Now Reporting Swine Flu Cases - Death Toll Rises Among Healthy Young Adults
CNN reports that the swine flu has now closed 433 schools in 17 states, with a large number of other school systems considering the closure of additional schools. Researchers have determined that the current swine flu outbreak includes not only the North American version of the swine flu, but also the Asian version of the swine flu. It is the unknown nature of this new version of the swine flu, its rapid spread and its unknown characteristics that concern health researchers. While many cases are mild, in others the victims lungs have rapidly filled with fluid leading to death. Also of course is the fact that in Mexico the greatest number of deaths have been among otherwise health young adults. In the United States, the swine flu has exploded across the country, with report cases now in the following states: Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Texas, Maine, New Hampsire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and the District of Columbia.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 10:30 PM
Swine Flu Now In Minnesota, Colorado, Nebraska, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Virginia, Arizona, Illinois, Delaware, Florida, Wash. DC
The CDC now reports confirmed cases of the swine flu in Minnesota, Nebraska, Kentucky, Virginia, Massachusetts, Colorado, Arizona, Illinois, Delaware, Florida and the District of Columbia. This is in addition to previously reported cases in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, South Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, California. In total, the swine flu has now been confirmed in 19 states with 141 confirmed cases. The CDC also provided today interim guidance on school closings. The federal government has also released antiviral medicines from its strategic national stockpile to all 50 states to treat patients with swine flu. Also, a plane heading to Washington, DC from Germany was diverted to Boston when a patient became ill with what might be the swine flu. Internationally, China has reported its first case of the swine flu. Confirmed cases continue to rise around the world, particularly in Canada and in Europe where people have travelled to Mexico. Debate continues about whether the border should be closed or travel restrictions imposed for people traveling between the U.S. and Mexico. After it was announced that two students at George Washington University in the District of Columbia have come down with the swine flu, nearby Georgetown University announced that it has established a special dorm where students with the swine flu who are not so ill as to require hospitalization can be taken.
Two swine flu cases have now been reported in Virginia. Also, two students at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. have come down with the swine flu. Finally, Rockville High School in Montgomery County, Maryland was closed today because a case of swine flu.
The NIH1 swine flu virus has now been reported in the following states: California, Neveda, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, South Carolina and Maryland. Also, at least one worker in the District of Columbia has come down with the swine flu. In total, over 110 cases of the N1H1 swine flu have thus far been reported in the United States and over 300 schools have been closed across the country. The greatest number of cases continues to be in New York City, and one death in Texas has been reported thus far. In Mexico, the government has ordered all non-essential government and private facilities to close over the four day holiday this weekend.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
On Thursday, April 30, 2009, the House Commerce Subcommittee of the U.S. Congress held a hearing on the N1H1 Swine Flu outbreak. This is just one of several recent hearings about the recent flu outbreak. As with other recent congressional hearings, the focus by most members of Congress was to attempt to elicit statements to protect U.S. agricultural outbreaks. Many members of Congress insisted that the recent N1H1 swine flu outbreak did not originate and have any connection with animals. One congressman ridiculed the idea of people wearing face masks to protect themselves and insisted that all travel on planes, buses and trains was totally safe. Testifying for the govenment were: Rear Admiral Craig Vanderwagen, MD, deputy Administrator of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Rear Admiral Anne Schuchat, MD, Interim Science and Public Health Deputy Director of the CDC; and Dr. Josh Sharfstein, Acting FDA Administrator. While attempting not to antagonize members of Congress, they nevertheless did not agree to Congressional pressure to minimize the seriousness of the N1H1 swine flu outbreak. As an example, Rear Admiral Craig Vanderwagen discussed how the recent N1H1 swine flu outbreak emphasizes the need to better understand how diseases in animals can jump to humans. Also, Dr. Schuchat described how the current flu outbreak is not just the typical human NIH1 flu - but rather is a new flu consisting of genetic materials from four sources, including swine flu and asian flu. She also refused to agree to insistence that all reference to the swine flu be deleted from CDC websites, insisting that the efforts of the CDC was to properly the public and health professionals. This hearing emphasizes the different priorities of health officials and Congress. Health officials do not want to create a panic, but they nevertheless want to inform the public and encourage individuals to take the individual action appropriate on their part to help contain the outbreak. Congressional focus thus far, however, has been to try to minimize the seriousness of the outbreak so as to not affect the economy. Meanwhile, what seems to be lacking in the public information from both Congress and public health officials is how the N1H1 swine flu outbreak presents different risks for different people. Clearly, given the number of confirmed cases in New York City and the fact that people travel via subways and other mass transit as their primary means of transportation, wearing face masks might be an appropriate strategy for residents of New York City. Furthermore, in communities where the recent outbreak of the flu has been confirmed in a local school, face masks might also be appropriate. And, in fact, public health and school officials have determined it appropriate to close over 300 schools nationwide in 11 states across the country. As a consequence, one can ask whether Congress is serving the public interest when it holds hearings as it has and where individual Congressmen trying to minimize the outbreak and belittle local and individual efforts to curb the outbreak. As an example, is it not appropriate for a person with an immunity deficiency or respiratory problems to avoid crowded public places or to wear a face mask in such places. Yet, at the House Commerce Subcommittee hearing on the Swine Flu Outbreak, at least one congressman belittled people that wore a face mask -- and seemed to belittle people in Mexico wearing protective face masks. Is this the role of Congress -- i.e. to attempt to dictate health and science policy to health officials and scientists based upon concerns that sharing information about the outbreak might negatively affect the economy. Also, is it the role of Congress to belittle individuals with special circumstances that makes them more vulnerable to the flu, and thus to mock all individuals who wear a face mask, no matter what their individual circumstances. Finally, is this appropriate - for Congressmen to mock parents who feel the need to keep their children home from school, and to mock school districts who have felt it appropriate to close schools. Do we want a society where public health policy is dictated by the commerce committee of Congress, as opposed to scientists and public health officials - and the public's own common-sense and awareness of their own individual circumstances?
Posted by Rick Hopper at 6:52 PM
At 7:10 pm Thursday evening NBC News has reported that there are now 130 confirmed cases of the H1N1 swine flu in 18 states in the U.S. and 11 countries overseas, and that 300 schools in 11 states across the country are closed as a precaution because of the swine flu -- keeping between 172,000 and 250,000 children home.
A Washington, DC office worker who is employed at the World Bank has been identified as having recently recovered from the swine flu. The World Bank has asked the employee to work from home pending additional advice from health officials.
Vice President Biden tells morning news television show that "I would not go anywhere in confined places now." The CDC has raised the number of confirmed cases of swine flu in the U.S. to 109. Mexico's President has urged all Mexicans to stay home over the coming four day holiday. Mexico has reported that most deaths have come with people in the 20 to 40 year old age group. Montgomery County, Maryland in the Washington, D.C. suburbs has reported a suspected case of swine flu. Many parents are keeping their children home from school as a precaution to avoid their children catching the swine flu. Health officials have said that individuals with impaired respiratory and weakened immune systems need to take special precautions and to avoid crowded places.
The White House has announced that an Energy Department staffer who accompanied President Obama to Mexico along with three of his family members have come down with the swine flu.
Health researchers are perplexed at what they consider the unprecedented and alarming rate that the swine flu is spreading. The Director-General of the World Health Organization has stated that the swine flu pandemic threatens all of humanity. Cases of the swine flu have now been confirmed in 12 countries. In Mexico, the country where the outbreak first manifested itself, the government has now ordered the shutdown of all nonessential PUBLIC AND PRIVATE activities/functions. Like the 1918 worldwide flu epidemic that killed 100 million people, in Mexico the swine flu epidemic has affected healthy teenagers and young adults the hardest.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 3:05 AM
The City of Fort Worth, Texas has announced that it is closing all of its public schools until the end of May because of the swine flu outbreak.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 2:29 AM
In today's Washington Post online, the Washington Post has reported that the Governor of Maryland has announced 6 probable cases of the swine flu in the Washington, DC and Baltimore regions. All are in Maryland, with Virginia and the District of Columbia yet to report any confirmed cases. Virginia, however, has set up a swine flu crisis management center.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 2:23 AM
Margaret Chan, the Director General of the World Health Organization, has raised its pandemic health alert to Level V (out of a scale from 1 to 6). She said that it is time for the drug companies and business to immediately take steps adjust to the inevitable world-wide swine flu epidemic. At the same time, Switzerland joined the list of countries reporting swine flu cases - stating that 29 swine flu cases have been confirmed in Switzerland.
The College Board has announced the cancellation of SAT tests at a large number of locations. It is not clear whether this is because of concern about the swine flu or for other reasons.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Despite the closing of all schools in Mexico and President Obama recommending that schools be closed where a student has been identified as having the swine flu, the Governor of Maryland has said that all schools in Maryland will remain open. This is despite the fact that Maryland's Governor has acknowledged six probable cases of the swine flu in Maryland, including two students in two different schools. School officials have said that they have disinfected the schools, but parents are already protesting that if there is one infected student in a school, then there are likely other students that have been exposed and have yet to come down with the more severe symptoms. Also, the University of Delaware has reported several probable cases of the swine flu. University officials, however, have said that all they are doing is setting up a voluntary screening unit in the gym. The question is whether the current outbreak of the swine flu is more severe than normal strains of the flu? On average, the CDC has stated that there are approximately 35,000 deaths nationwide annually from normal strains of the flu. Most deaths occur among the young, the elderly, and those with impaired immune or respiratory systems. In Mexico, however, the recent swine flu outbreak has followed the pattern of the 1918 flu pandemic in causing more deaths among healthy young adults. Health officials have stated that there is no clear pattern established yet in the U.S., but that the swine flu virus infecting individuals in the U.S. is the same virus that has caused the swine flu deaths in Mexico. All of this has parents concerned about sending students to school. Also, there is the question whether the current approach of not closing schools in the U.S. is fair to students that have respiratory problems such as asthma? While most students infected with swine flu will recover, is it proper public health policy to knowingly expose students with asthma and other respiratory problems to potential swine flu infection - until we know more about how lethal the current outbreak and virus are? What we do know is that the current outbreak has caused over 150 deaths thus far in Mexico and is rapidly spreading throughout the world in just a short period of time.
During a speech on Wednesday night, President Obama recommended the closing of schools in the United States in cases where a student has been identified as having the swine flu in order to help present the spread of the swine flu outbreak. At the same time, the World Health Organization has announced that it is considering raising its pandemic alert level.
The Washington Post has reported 10 probable cases of the swine flu at the University of Delaware.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 10:27 PM
While not yet confirmed by the CDC, the Washington Post has reported six probable cases of the swine flu in the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan area. All are in Maryland. A student in Folger McKinsey elementary school in Severna Park, Maryland is one of the reported cases. According to Maryland Governor O'Malley, the six probable cases of swine flu in Maryland include the student in Severna Park and two family members, and a high school student and two other people in Baltimore County, Maryland.
Following is the latest assessment of the severity of the swine flu outbreak by the CDC: "The outbreak of disease in people caused by a new virus of swine origin continues to grow in the United States and internationally. Today, CDC reports additional confirmed infections, hospitalizations, and the nation's first confirmed fatality from this outbreak. The more recent illnesses and the reported death suggest that a pattern of more severe illness associated with this virus may be emerging in the U.S. Most people will not have immunity for this new virus and, as it continues to spread, more cases, more hospitalizations, and more deaths are expected in the coming days and weeks. CDC has implemented its emergency response." (Report as of April 29, 2009, 9:45 pm).
To obtain the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control about the swine flu outbreak, see http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu
To learn more about the swine flu and what precautions you can take, see
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
There is now no doubt that the swine flu outbreak has become a global pandemic. U.S. health officials have predicted that there will be U.S. deaths from the outbreak. How deadly the outbreak will be in the U.S., however, is still uncertain. Thus far no deaths have been traced to the swine flu in the U.S. The number of confirmed swine flu cases in the U.S. rises daily, with a case now reported in Indiana along with the previous cases reported in New York, New Jersey, California, Texas, Ohio, South Carolina, and Kansas. New York City continues to be the location in the U.S. with the greatest number of swine flu cases.
Posted by Rick Hopper at 8:21 PM
Swine flu cases have now also been reported in New Jersey (has five reported cases) and in South Carolina, where an entire high school has had to be shut down. Totally, eight states have now reported cases of the swine flu. Of concern is the fact that many students are still in the processing of returning fro Spring Break in Mexico. In the U.S. patients are being treated wit Tamaflu, but Mexico has run out of its supply. Mexico has run out of masks that can help prevent the spread of this respiratory illness. This has caused a panic in Mexico, where all sports and other social events are being cancelled. Meanwhile, around the world, many airports have installed heat detectors to screen passengers to try to screen passengers that might be running a flu. Thus far, the estimated mortality rate for this swine flu rate appears to be between 6-8 percent. This compares to a 1-2 percent mortality rate for the 1918 worldwide flu epidemic. Even though the 1918 epidemic had a lower mortality rate, it nevertheless killed over 100 million people worldwide - more than all the people killed from World War I,
Monday, April 27, 2009
The World Health Organization has issued a Level 4 alert (just one level below a world-wide pandemic alert) as world-wide health officials attempt to determine how to deal with the health emergency caused by the swine flu outbreak in North America. In addition to the U.S. and Mexico, Canadian officials now also report cases of the swine flu in Canada. Already, the European Union has recommended the cancelling of all non-essential travel to the U.S. and Mexico has one case of the swine flu has been reported in Spain and two in Scotland, all from individuals who had travelled to Mexico. Officials in Russia, Hong Kong and elsewhere are also discussing restricting travel to North America and/or quarantining individuals who show any potential symptoms.
The European Union has recommended the cancelling of all non-essential travel to the United States and Mexico because of the swine flu outbreak - so as to avoid a worldwide pandemic such as occurred in 1918 where over 100 million people died worldwide. This was after a man in Spain and two people in Scotland came down with the swine flu after traveling to Mexico. This action by Europe to recommend the cancelling of all non-essential travel to the U.S. and Mexico occurred on the same day that President Obama declared a national health emergency in the U.S. and Mexico ordered all of its schools nationwide because of the swine flu outbreak.
At 1:00 pm on April 27, 2009, President Obama spoke at the National Science Foundation and announced that the U.S. had declared a national health emergency to deal with the recently discovered outbreak of swine flu in the U.S. and Mexico. On the same day, Mexico ordered all of its schools nationwide to be closed and confirmed that there had been 149 confirmed deaths and 1,995 people hospitalized from the swine flu thus far in Mexico. No one is sure how many people in Mexico have been infected or how virulent this outbreak is. It could be that one million people in Mexico have been infected, or only 100,000, or only 10,000. Also of concern is the fact that the swine flu in Mexico appears to have mutated and to be resilent to drug treatment. In the U.S. thus far, there have been 28 confirmed swine flu cases in New York City, 7 in California, 2 in Kansas, 2 in Texas, and 1 in Ohio. The first case of swine flu involved a boy in Texas. Subsequently, there were several cases in California. But the real outbreak has been in Mexico. At the end of the normal flu season in Mexico, health officials had noticed an increase in the amount of flu cases, but it wasn't until deaths began to occur that people realized it was the swine flu. The swine flu is like the 1918 flu that killed over 100 million people worldwide in that it tends to attack healthy adolescents as opposed to infants or the elderly. The problem is that for healthy persons, there body tends to overreact in its immune response and fill the lungs with fluid. The swine flu is also of concern for individuals with a depressed immune system. Health officials are scrambling to understand the nature of the current swine flu and whether it represents the type of pandemic that health officials have long been afraid of -- as a repeat of the type of pandemic that occurred during the 1918 flu. Until more is known, health officials have recommended not traveling to Mexico except in cases of necessity, avoid large gatherings of people, immediately report to your doctor any flu like symptoms, and to take the normal precautions to prevent colds and the flu such as washing your hands often. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies are looking whether a specific vaccine can be developed to deal with this new variation of swine flu. This current national health emergency and swine flu outbreak highlights one of the major problems (and perhaps the greatest problem) of our new modern, globalized society - in that given the international travel today, any health pandemic can rapidly spread throughout the world. Such a pandemic is even more likely to occur in the event of global warming and displaced of large populations of people, since health epidemics are more likely to occur in poor refugee populations. This demonstrates how we need to understand that, given today's modern globalized world, we are more interconnected with all the people and life on our fragile planet earth than ever.
It is estimated that 80 percent of the world's biodiversity is contained in the earth's tropical rain forests. Coffee, chocolate, bananas, mangos, avocados, papaya and sugar cane are all agriculture products originally grown in tropical rain forests. Much of the plant and insect life of tropical rain forests is believed to yet to be discovered and to offer one of the best sources for new drugs. Unfortunately, in modern times, the rain forests have increasingly been cut down for agriculture purposes. This is despite the soil of the rain forests is poor for most agriculture. Above is a picture of the Amazon River cutting through the South American rain forest. Also, it is believed that global warming could lead to the drying up and thus elimination of all rain forests.
Marshs and wetlands are not only a great source of wildlife and are critical to the marine environment, but they also provide a filtering mechanism for soil and other run-off to keep our estuaries and rivers clean. Unfortunately, until recently, marshes and wetlands were allowed to be filled in and used as land for development. This, in turn, has led to increased pollution of our estuaries and rivers -- and the ocean marine environment. An example of where human activity to fill in marshes and wetlands has adversely affected the environment is the case of the Chesapeake Bay. In this example, the expansion of urban sprawl and the filling in of marshes and wetlands has led to the significant degradation of the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in North America and once a source of what seemed unlimited wildlife and fish. This is no longer the case as state and federal officials fight to save the bay.
Desert ecosystems are inherently fragile environments. Unfortunately, with the invention of air-conditioning, society has increasingly diverted scarce water to development cities such as Phoenix, Arizona and Las Vegas, Neveda in the desert. Scarce water has also been used to generate electricity through hydroelectric projects and to water agriculture fields planted in the desert. All of this has strained the capacity the Colorado and other rivers to deliver water to downstream sources, with the result that the lower parts of such rivers have become increasingly salty and unable to support life. Meanwhile, droughts and increasingly population put a strain on water supplies used to provide water and electricity to desert cities.
Savanna ecosystems such as the Serengeti in Africa are areas of diverse wildlife that depend upon limited water supplies to survive from one rainy season to the next. Global warming, however, threatens the availabiity of the limited year-long water supplies necessary to support wildlife. Meanwhile, another threat to the wildlife of the savannas is increased poaching and killing of wildlife by settlements on the edge of national park and wildlife preserve. All of these threaten the very survival of such animals as the African lion, elephants etc.
The ecosystem of the Appalachian Mountains in North America is second only to the tropical rain forests in its biodiversity, with the Appalachians containing more variety of trees than all of Europe combined. This is because during the time that the continents were combined into one giant continent called Pangea, the Appalachian region was located on the ecuador. It was only as a result of plate tectonics that Applachian is now located in the Northern Hemisphere. Evidence of its tropical past, however, can be discovered in the numerous ferns that exist in Appalachia and in the large coal deposits that were formed by the geological compression of its once tropical vegetation. In the coal deposits, one can see fossils of the tropical vegetation and fish that once existed in Appalachia when it was a tropical rain forest. When one thinks of Appalachian, one tends to think of endless forests - but this once was not true. At the end of the 1800's and early 1900's, over 95 percent of the forests of Appalachia were clear cut in one of the large examples of the human transformation of the natural environment. It was only the creation of state and national parks and forests that have allowed the forests in those areas to grow back. But sustained forest management is still an issue throughout Appalachia. Meanwhile, the exploitation of another natural resource continues to have a more permanent negative impact on Appalachia. This is coal mining. Underground coal mines continue to pollute streams and rivers as leachate leaks out of abandoned mines. An even greater problem is strip mining of coal. This involves literally cutting off the top of the mountains to get to the coal, leaving the strip-mined land without topsoil and vegetation. New regulations reguire the re-planting of strip mined areas, but it is difficult to grow anything on the cut-off mountain tops without top soil.
Carrying-capacity is perhaps the key concept for the protection of our fragile planet. Carrying capacity is the measure of a ecosystem to support life. It is dependent upon the balance between animal and plant populations that take up and use the resources of the eco-system and the waste that the produce, and the amount of available resources of an eco-system. An ecosystem where its carry-capacity is said to be in balance is a sustainable ecosystem. An unbalanced ecosystem, however, is not sustainable over the long term.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Desertification occurs from climate change and human activities. It occurs primarily to semi-arid areas where the natural vegetation is stripped, thus causing the desert to expand. An example of desertification is the expansion of the Gobe desert in Mongolia. As the Gobe desert expands, it blows large dust clouds over parts of China and impacts on the total world's climate. One of the causes of the expansion of the Gobe desert is the raising of sheep in Mongolia in order to provide the demand for cashmere wool clothing. This is an example of how what seem to be insignificant human activities can, in fact, have large regional and world-wide impacts.