Sunday, April 26, 2009

Thoughts on the New Flu

Well, a new strain of swine flu is apparently worrying the socks off of the CDC and DHS. Secretary Napolitano has declared a preemptive state of emergency over the outbreak.

Mexico City is apparently shutting down, to include such religious things as Sunday Mass and soccer games.

So, what do we have here?

Hopefully, this is only going to be as bad as the SARS outbreak a few years ago. Yes, it's pretty bad if you get it, but good quarantine methods contain the outbreak.

I really hope it doesn't get as bad as the 1918 "Spanish" flu outbreak. That killed 10's of millions. But that was just as modern medicine was starting to come out. Anti-viral medicine was a dream, a lot of the medical establishment still didn't believe in germs, and not a lot of people had access to good medical support if they needed it. Now, even though we still don't have magic bullets against viruses, we at least have a few widely used drugs like Tamiflu. Doctors are readily available to all Americans, and the doctors are well-trained and certified. I'm sure that work is going on already to develop a vaccine. If one is found, it could be quickly mass-produced and distributed.

BTW, for a really good read about the 1918 Pandemic, check out The Great Influenza. I picked it up a few years ago in an airport book store, and it goes into great detail on how the influenza is believed to have originated and how it spread. BTW, the 1918 flu is also believed to have originated in pigs and crossed the species barrier.

So, what's the worst case scenario? Well, it would be a repeat of 1918. In 1918, the flu spread quickly through soldiers who took it from North America to the fighting in Europe, then spread globally when soldiers returned to every continent in the world. This flu could spread quickly through air travelers. That's probably how it has already spread from Mexico to places like New York and New Zealand.

Doctors in the USA are saying that the cases they've seen so far have been pretty mild, but that follows the pattern of the 1918 influenza. The first outbreak was pretty mild, with a lot of people getting sick, but not a lot of them died. Then the subsequent waves hit later in the year and killed millions.

Things could get pretty ugly for a while, but it won't be the end of the world. Pandemics burn themselves out eventually. Those who are going to sicken and die will do so pretty quickly. Hopefully, those who survive will have at least partial immunity. Society will change temporarily to keep from getting sick. Things like movies and sports will suffer because people will either be prevented from or voluntarily quit going to such things.

What we can do now is to just do what we do every flu season. Wash your hands, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and stay home from work if you feel sick.

I hope this doesn't get too bad. Just in case, please use the Purel at the door as you leave.

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