Swine flu: a lighten at the beginning of the tunnel

Now that the initial rush is over, time to settle in for the long(er) haul. It's 3 am here. Good time to clear the air and lighten up:

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Thanks for a much needed breath of (gallows) humor. Last place I expected to find it, but glad I did.

By Anna-Sophia (not verified) on 28 Apr 2009 #permalink

So... We don't have to worry about the economic crisis now?

By Alex Besogonov (not verified) on 28 Apr 2009 #permalink

Speaking of gallows humor, many Aussies are complete cunts toward academics:*)

This unique H1N1 flu type (genetically a combo of bird, pig, and human viruses) seems to have a vastly different symptomology, CFR, etc, in Mexican locals vis a vis foreign visitors who became infected in Mexico and, upon returning to their nation of residence, those that these visitors onstream H2H infected...

This new transgenic H1N1 virus is genetically identical in recovered and dead patients but obviously operates differently, why!?!

"Dont wanna freak you out, but..." Has the extremely diverse symptomology of this virus got something to do with "bacterial resistance" evolving and emanating out of consumer products containing the antimicrobial agent, triclosan!?!

Just a random not completely thought out line of thought. And Revere, if it's an utterly stoooopid one please do let me know -- duh, I know the differences between viruses and bacteria...

Excerpt from "Rogue diseases of the twenty-first century" By Pete Moore: Published 2001 by Carlton Books, p.89, hardback, ISBN-10: 1842221795, ISBN-13: 978-1842221792

Pete Moore: "A 1998 paper written by Laura McMurry and colleagues at Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, USA, and published in the science journal NATURE found evidence triclosan blocks a specific [bacterial cellular] pathway.

In other words, it was acting as an antibiotic, and moreover they found that resistant bugs were emerging [due to the cellular membranes doing the predictable evolutionary thang and growing smarter: ie. adapt-evolve-pumping triclosan out of the bacterial cell].

This sheds new light on triclosan, and probably some other disinfectants."

By Jonathon Singleton (not verified) on 28 Apr 2009 #permalink

Thank you. All your effort and generous, cogent information is very much appreciated, throughout.

By An Australian (not verified) on 28 Apr 2009 #permalink


Hey....that was exactly what I said! About five days ago.

If only there were a vaccine for "bullet flu!"

In a less serious vein, I have a less serious problem related to this outbreak. A week and half ago I got airfare and cruise tickets for a 4-day cruise to... Mexico. In a couple weeks. As a surprise for my wife for our anniversary.

Needless to say, this is looking less attractive now. The cruise line has announced - for now - that they aren't making any schedule changes. If things get worse, might there be any legal recourses?

OK, so how long before we hear "it went from birds to pigs, so does this mean that pigs can fly now?"


Seriously now, re. the differential outcomes USA / Mexico: The hypotheses I can recall hearing so far are:

Natural selection for less-virulent variants as spread expands outward. I'd rate this one high since it's a conventional mechanism. However we may be in for a new pure science discovery here, that the needed variation occurs at a level in the virus that was previously not examined, since previous instances occurred in other viruses at a higher level that was more easily found.

Genetic differences between Mexican & USA populations. I would rate this one low probability because individual differences are generally greater than group differences with a few notable exceptions such as sickle cell / malaria resistance in some Africans and HIV resistance in some Europeans.

Viral load per patient: higher in Mexicans due to higher density of infected persons in the population, thus higher degree of exposure for each new case. This could be falsified by looking at the rings of transmission, or possibly by some kind of tests on patient samples (outside my knowledge).

Altitude above sea level: Mexico City is high altitude, which generally means low humidity, which is a favorable condition for transmission. This could be falsified once there are enough cases outside Mexico City, by comparing case outcomes based on altitudes of cities examined.

There's another hypothesis I can't recall at the moment... Any others out there?

Ray, I'm not a lawyer, but I've heard that in some cases, tickets must be refunded if a person has a doctor's order to not go on the cruise. Someone close to me who had a sprain injury was in that position but in the end was well enough to go.

The thing about doctor's orders is: the doc can write a note to the cruise line saying that s/he forbids one or both of you from going, for reasons that cannot be discussed further due to doctor/patient confidentiality, and that's that. Now see if the cruise line wants to take the PR hit by attempting to get you to release confidentiality. Heh. You might want to talk at least with a consumer advocacy group that deals with issues of this kind (for example with airlines), at minimum; and of course a lawyer might be best.

In any case don't take the cruise. Look at it this way: tell your wife you bought the tickets but cancelled because you'd rather be together for the rest of your *long* lives, and instead, you're going to make her the best dinner or whatever, or have some kind of romantic weekend *at home.* In any case trying to enjoy a cruise during a pandemic is like trying to enjoy a movie when you have diarrhea: you just can't let go and get into the swing of things, because something bad might happen. So best to not have to deal with that, and do something closer to home that's in the clear.


Re. Triclosan: Dammit, we need a war on drugs directed against the flagrant, prolific, and promiscuous misuse of antibiotics and antibacterials, including in agriculture. That stuff ought to be on the Controlled Substances list. All antibiotics should be at least FDA Schedule III. Including veterinary antibiotics, since after all other veterinary medications such as animal tranqulizers made it to Sched I.

g336: I consider all your hypotheses credible, although there are others, too. We will probably learn more about flu spread from this episode than we have in any other, so that's the good news. The bad news? We don't really know what's going to happen.

g336 writes: "Natural selection for less-virulent variants as spread expands outward. I'd rate this one high since it's a conventional mechanism."

I would consider this high as well except for the 1918 pandemic's extended virulence.

Is there a cite for a validated model of selection for less-virulence despite horizontal transmission? I don't recall this being discussed by Ewald in "Plague Time".

Looks like the cruise lines are abandoning stops in Mexico for the next few days. Our cruise isn't for two weeks, but presumably if the situation isn't improved that'll be extended, so while it's suboptimal I think we can live with it.

Hopefully this outbreak fizzles out.