CMO: NO NEED TO PANIC OVER SWINE FLU By John Denny Observer Reporter
(Long Point, Nevis) – So far, there have been no reported cases of swine flu in the Federation and there is no need for the public to panic, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Patrick Martin. The Department of Health has been monitoring the situation closely for the last week and as of yet, there have been no confirmed cases in the entire Caribbean region. Efforts to obtain flu shots have been mobilized and heightened surveillance of people arriving through air and sea ports has been initiated. Although U.S. media sources are playing this strain of influenza, H1N1 as something just this side of a plague of the Revelation, the World Health Organization has said there have so far been less than 10 deaths confirmed from what has been titled Swine Flu. The inflated numbers reported by mainstream media are of ‘suspected cases”and are yet to be confirmed. Vivienne Allan, from WHO’s patient safety program, said Wednesday morning the body had confirmed that worldwide there had been just seven deaths – all in Mexico – and 79 confirmed cases of the disease. Later that day an infant child in the U.S. died of what was suspected to be swine flu. It was be the first death attributed to the disease in the U.S. “Unfortunately that (inflated death toll) is incorrect information and it does happen, but that’s not information that’s come from the World Health Organization,” Ms Allan told ABC Radio on Wednesday morning. “That figure is not a figure that’s come from the World Health Organization and, I repeat, the death toll is seven and they are all from Mexico.” Fans of the author Stephen King might be familiar with his work of fiction, The Stand in which a strain of influenza called Captain Tripps developed by U.S. bioweapons researchers accidentally escaped confinement and nearly wipes out the human species. Swine flu or H1N1 is hardly that, but it is the same strain that killed tens of millions in 1918-1919. During that outbreak it was called Spanish Flu, which is the most famous and lethal outbreak in history. The so-called Spanish flu pandemic which lasted from 1918 to 1919 was bad. It is not known exactly how many it killed, but estimates range from 20 to 100 million people. This pandemic has been described as ‘the greatest medical holocaust in history” and may have killed as many people as the Black Death. This huge death toll was caused by an extremely high infection rate of up to 50 percent. Indeed, symptoms in 1918 were so unusual that initially influenza was misdiagnosed as dengue, cholera, or typhoid. One observer wrote, “One of the most striking of the complications was hemorrhage from mucous membranes, especially from the nose, stomach, and intestine. Bleeding from the ears and hemorrhages from the skin also occurred. The majority of deaths were from bacterial pneumonia, a secondary infection caused by influenza, but the virus also killed people directly, causing massive hemorrhages and edema in the lungs. The Spanish flu pandemic was truly global, spreading even to the Arctic and remote Pacific islands. The unusually severe disease killed between 2 and 20% of those infected, as opposed to the more usual flu epidemic mortality rate of 0.1%. Another unusual feature of this pandemic was that it mostly killed young adults, with 99% of pandemic influenza deaths occurring in people under 65, and more than half in young adults 20 to 40 years old. This is unusual since influenza is normally most deadly to the very young (under age 2) and the very old (over age 70). The total mortality of the 1918-1919 pandemic is not known, but it is estimated that 2.5% to 5% of the world’s population was killed. As many as 25 million may have been killed in the first 25 weeks; in contrast, HIV/AIDS has killed 25 million in its first 25 years. Later flu pandemics were not so devastating. They included the 1957 Asian Flu (type A, H2N2 strain) and the 1968 Hong Kong Flu (type A, H3N2 strain), but even these smaller outbreaks killed millions of people. In later pandemics antibiotics were available to control secondary infections and this may have helped reduce mortality compared to the Spanish Flu of 1918. As influenza is caused by a variety of species and strains of viruses, in any given year some strains can die out while others create epidemics, while yet another strain can cause a pandemic. Typically, in a year’s normal two flu seasons (one per hemisphere), there are between three and five million cases of severe illness and up to 500,000 deaths worldwide, which by some definitions is a yearly influenza epidemic. Although the incidence of influenza can vary widely between years, approximately 36,000 deaths and more than 200,000 hospitalizations are directly associated with influenza every year in America. Roughly three times per century, a pandemic occurs, which infects a large proportion of the world’s population and can kill tens of millions of people. Indeed, if a strain with similar virulence to the 1918 influenza emerged today, it could kill 50 to 80 million people.