Monday, November 2, 2009

2009 H1N1 Swine Flu Update As Of 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.