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What did we learn


UKGuy

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One of the parting comments from the "Effect Measure" blog now that the pandemic has passed asked what we had learned from the Swine Flu outbreaks.

"we learned all preventive measures including the hand-washing techniques, anti-flu drugs, staying home when sick, and modern heath care could not prevent the US (with about 300 million people) from suffering the most of this modern day pandemic (at least 50 million people presumed to have been infected and at least 12,000 lives lost). With about 100 million people in Mexico, it has only reported an estimated 1208 deaths and Canada with about 33 million people has only reported an estimated 428 fatal cases due to pH1N1."

 

My question is - is it really over for this century (we seem to have a major pandemic every 100 years) or was this just a taste of what's to come. Was this really our major pandemic? I read somewhere that the morbidity rate (deaths against infections) on Swine Flu was 0.02% whereas the 1918 Spanish Flu was 0.2% and Bird flu was an incredible 65%. Can you imagine if these two recent strains combined in the future? What are your thoughts on this?

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I know that over the past year, there have been times that I have seen reports with scientists and doctors concerned that H1N1 could combine with H5N1 (avian flu)...especially when the Swine pandemic reached areas in the orient and Pacific where H5N1 is endemic. I guess that the virii were more resistant to recombination than they feared, though, and thank God for that. Can you imagine a "superflu" with the communicability of Swine Flu and the CFR of Avian Flu? We have been very lucky so far that such a thing did not happen.

 

Pandemics are hard things to predict. One thing that we have to take into consideration is that the "once a century" concept is still based on a century ago and before, when people could not travel the globe with near the ease that they can now. Today, a person can contract a communicable, potentially fatal disease on one continent, then set foot on an entirely different continent before they even develop symptoms -- whilst being potentially contaigous the entire journey. In our super-paced world, pandemics could spread much more easily and quickly than ever before.

 

So, while I think we dodged a bullet thus far on the recombination of the two flus, we definitely need to be prepared for more pandemics than ever before. And not just flu. Tuberculosis, an antibiotic-resistant strain at that, is making a comeback. Polio is becoming more common in Mexico. There are fears of smallpox being reintroduced...either by nature or by mankind...to the world at large. I know we can't prepare for everything, but we can be vigilant and remain aware of what is happening in the world around us -- and remain ready to self-quarantine or take other protective measures if we feel it has become necessary.

 

Personally, I feel that it is almost inevitable for H5N1 to finally attain a dire level of communicability and produce a devastating pandemic.

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