The novel swine flu has affected its one millionth American. The first death in England has been recorded (a 9 year old girl). Yesterday, the first Brazilian death was recorded. When we look at the map of the disease, note that many regions of Africa are totally devoid of cases. Just so you know … this is not some special African immunity. This is simply because the global health network has failed Africa and we have no clue what is going on there, and never have had a clue.

A new wrinkle in the process for North Americans, possibly with parallels elsewhere, is the summer camp phenomenon. This is where we take children from multiple communities, only some of which have some dreaded disease, or perhaps just an annoying meme, and we ship them all to one location either every day for the whole day, or for weeks at a time overnight. In this way, the diseases or annoying memes can spread among them and all the children can bring them home!

There have been some summer camp closings.

Despite rumors to the contrary, the novel swine flu is roughly as deadly as the regular flu. I’m still seeing people, even experts, indicate that it is relatively mild. It is not. It is typical.

The novel swine flu seems to be affecting younger individuals in part because of an immunity found in older individuals, presumably from exposure to a similar flu in the past. This is interesting news if confirmed. This touches on another area of confusion. The 1918 pandemic flu was famous for being extra deadly for healthy individuals. This was for a very specific medical reason. The current flu seems to be affecting ‘healthy’ individuals more as well. This is for a totally different and utterly unrelated reason, probably.

This is subject to revision, but here’s the story:

The 1918 pandemic flu killed healthy people more because healthy = stronger immune system. These people were killed by the way their immune system reacted to the flu. A person with a strong immune system would be more strongly affected by the flu, possibly fatally.

The novel swine flu appears to be affecting healthy people more because healthy = younger than a certain age. That age cut off separates individuals (older) who have an immunity from prior exposure to a similar virus from younger individuals who don’t.

Again, this is subject to revision. This is subject to revision in two ways:

1) The assertion I make above about the 1918 flu is very likely true and well demonstrated, but the assertion I make about the novel swine flu is speculative at this time; and 2) the phenomenon seen in the 1918 pandemic flu, while apparently not happening with the current novel swine flu, could develop later on during the pandemic.

Why do I say that? Because that is what happened in 1918. The flu went around the world ‘off season’ (as the current flu is doing) and was typical in virtually every way but its timing. Then it went around the world again with this extra glitch of killing people with their own immune system.

The fact that the 1918 flu did this has flu experts worried, and they should be. However, I have yet to see a biological argument for why this flu should follow the same pattern in regards to this specific feature.

What is going to happen next? In late (?) September (+/-) there will be a flu vaccine available for the regular flu. Get one.

Later, maybe in October (?) there may be a vaccine available for the novel swine flu. This may be a two dose vaccine. Get it, get them both if there are two. There will be instructions as to who should get it and when. But since those instructions will be filtered through the usual sources, be careful what you pay attention to. The little people sitting at the colorful desk on the news show will not be giving you useful information. They never get this stuff right. You should rely on the blogosphere this time around, I think.

(People who have gotten the novel swine flu already seem to be immune but unless you know you had it from a clear test, I would not assume that.)

And speaking of people getting it all wrong … have you heard about any of the flu woo scams going around regarding the flu? There is a treatment in which photons are passed into your cells to kill the virus. There is an anti-flu vaccine. There is a ‘do it yourself’ flu vaccine kit, which involves you sending in your credit card number but then never hearing back from them.

Obviously, don’t fall for that.


CDC flu site
; WHO

Comments

  1. #1 Carlos Hotta
    June 29, 2009

    The brazilian guy that died was truck driver that kept driving for 5 days after his symptons started. I am really worried about the swine flu hitting Brazilian slums where the population is dense, a lot of times malnourished and afraid of seeking medical help due to costs or time taken.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    June 29, 2009

    Carlos, that has been on my mind as well. That would make the American problem of kids going to camp look like very small change.

  3. #3 Eamon
    June 29, 2009

    Carlos,

    I’m a bit worried about a similar situation in Japan – there are strong pressures to go to work, and taking unnessary time off is a strong hit against one’s record. Add in the fact that a lot of workers aren’t even entitled to time off for sickness and that could add up to a lot of deaths.

    The scams are also on the rise in Japan, targetting senior citizens: http://www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/new-flu-fears-stir-swine-to-swindle-seniors

  4. #4 Carl Troein
    June 30, 2009

    The 9-year-old girl in the UK was actually the third UK death, and (much like the other two, IIRC) she reportedly “had other serious health problems”, even to the point that it “is not known if flu contributed to her death”.

    If you’re going to catch this flu, now seems to be the right time for it. It’s apparently not particularly deadly (yet), and there’s the additional benefit of being treated and closely monitored by health professionals that aren’t completely swamped by these cases (yet). Being isolated in a hospital must be a bit boring, but surely it’s a small price to have paid for (possible) immunity, should the flu go all 1918 on us.

  5. #5 Carl Troein
    June 30, 2009

    I suppose I should also say that no, I don’t want the flu right now, and there’s no need to cough on me if you think you’ve got it, thank you very much.
    And to clarify: the recent death in the UK was indeed the first in England. The other two were here in Scotland; one 73-year-old with “very serious underlying health issues” and a 38-year-old who was pregnant and reportedly had additional “underlying health conditions”.

  6. #6 csrster
    June 30, 2009

    Every news broadcast on these deaths seems to include the obligatory “underlying health conditions” rider. I realise that it would be bad reporting not to include it, but I do occasionally feel guilty at the “phew, so I’m alright” reaction it inevitably induces.

  7. #7 Theo Bromine
    June 30, 2009

    I suggest people not get too complacent about statements about “underlying health conditions”. From what I have seen, it’s a very broad definition, and includes, for example, cases like middle-aged people in reasonably good health with mild asthma. (http://www.medbroadcast.com/channel_health_news_details.asp?news_id=18468&channel_id=1020)

    I am annoyed with the public health departments here (Ontario, Canada) who are saying that they see no need to do any more reporting of cases or closing of schools etc, on the basis that they are handling H1N1/SOIV just like they would regular seasonal flu. BUT, their normal approach for seasonal flu includes vaccinations for people with underlying risk factors – with no vaccinations for SOIV available yet, one would think they should take that into consideration. (Yes, it’s personal: I still have a nasty cough, asthma, and persistent headache (but at least I didn’t die) from the illness I contracted 2 weeks ago at a local elementary school , very likely S-OIV, but I can’t be sure since they are not doing testing any more (not that it would make much difference at this point except to satisfy my intellectual curiosity).)

  8. #8 Carl Troein
    June 30, 2009

    A xanthine said: I suggest people not get too complacent about statements about “underlying health conditions”.
    Point taken. For one thing, either you have those, or you’re young/old and vulnerable, or you’re in the death-by-immune-response age bracket. Either way, the flu will kill you.

    Seriously, though, you’re certainly right: we know that the people with some sort of health condition (does a common cold count??) are most likely to die, so the fact that old and sick people are the first to go should come as no surprise. And again, at this point there are still the resources and the incentive (at least here) to diagnose and treat patients, and once that fails I’m sure we’ll see a lot more young (meh!), healthy (cough!) and beautiful (hah!) people kick the bucket. (Note to my family: please quote me on that when you write my obituary.)

  9. #9 SCARY
    January 18, 2010

    SWINES IN TOP HATS SWINDLE

    Glaxo is just a marketing hand
    so who sold that vacc to the whole world carrying seeds of the next pandemic?
    What state, what monster?
    When failed, getting away to try again?
    Like Oklahoma

    your comment must be approved by

    OH YEAH?

    guess where all the internet monitoring flows to and you guessed where that vaccine maker sits

    According to a list compiled by Dr. Patricia Doyle at rense.com, a host of strange ingredients are used to make up Hoffman-La Roche’s anti-flu drug Tamiflu, which has recently been connected with bizarre behavior,

    Patients using Tamiflu — which many nations are stocking up on as a way to combat a possible pandemic of the deadly H5N1 bird flu — reported delirium, hallucinations, delusions, convulsions, disturbed consciousness and abnormal behavior. The FDA reports that side effects reported with Tamiflu include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bronchitis, stomach pain, dizziness and headache.

    ANTI-MONOPOLISTS VERY QUIET ON JUST ONE FIRM ”SERVING” THE WHOLE WORLD

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