In August 2006, I was inspired to write a disconcerting blog post regarding the potential outbreak of the avian flu. It was a disturbing post not only because it contained potentially negative statistical mortality outcomes on an international basis, but also because, as a relative insider, it was clear to me that we were not ready at all for this type of pandemic.
With new grandbaby Zoey safely here on earth less than a week ago as the youngest member of the family, today’s opening story of a potential influenza pandemic made my blood run cold. The rate and speed with which this type of pandemic could overtake our world is almost immeasurable, and, having flown from San Francisco, to San Diego, to Richmond to Pittsburgh in the last week, it was clear that, if I had been a carrier, literally hundreds of people could have been infected simply by my presence.
Those who are realists or pragmatists will simply say, it is Mother Nature’s way of “thinning the herd,” but herd thinning in our case is something that is uncomfortable, especially in such a random way. During the pandemic of 1917/1918, mass graves were dug not ten miles from my home, and undertakers were not even permitted to prepare the bodies for burial.
My previous blog focused on the avian virus, but this morphed virus that appeared in Mexico, not China, not the Far East as originally predicted, is a combination of human, swine, and avian viruses. No one has ever seen or found cures for this type of radical new flu yet.
View H1N1 Swine Flu in a larger map
The World Health Organization came out today with only a level three warning, but when they described this level of warning, they indicated that it was simply because they did not yet have enough information to take it to level six. There are confirmed cases in San Antonio, San Diego, and one report even indicated that New York had two cases, and over 68 are known dead in Mexico. Fever, sore throat, coughing, nausea, body aches, headaches, chills and fever are some of the symptoms presenting with this flu that can result in pneumonia and respiratory failure.
Mexico City closed it schools on Friday, and more such initiatives are expected as this powerful force of nature begins to take on a life of its own.
How can you avoid getting this flu? Wash your hands, stay away from infected people, cover your nose and mouth.
In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
Let’s all hope that this never gets any worse than it did in the 1976/77 cycle when only a very few people died at that time…mortality rate was low with swine, but this is swine, avian and human combination.
Tonight, say a little prayer.
Also by Nick Jacobs:
Are We Ready for the Avian Flu?
August 8th, 2006