Posts about pandemic

Influenza Pandemic Alert Raised to Level 5 (of 6)

WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, announced today that she has “decided to raise the current level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to phase 5.” And she further comments:

Let me remind you. New diseases are, by definition, poorly understood. Influenza viruses are notorious for their rapid mutation and unpredictable behaviour. WHO and health authorities in affected countries will not have all the answers immediately, but we will get them.

WHO will be tracking the pandemic at the epidemiological, clinical, and virological levels. All countries should immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans. Countries should remain on high alert for unusual outbreaks of influenza-like illness and severe pneumonia.

At this stage, effective and essential measures include heightened surveillance, early detection and treatment of cases, and infection control in all health facilities.

I have reached out to companies manufacturing antiviral drugs to assess capacity and all options for ramping up production. I have also reached out to influenza vaccine manufacturers that can contribute to the production of a pandemic vaccine.

The biggest question, right now, is this: how severe will the pandemic be, especially now at the start?

It is possible that the full clinical spectrum of this disease goes from mild illness to severe disease. We need to continue to monitor the evolution of the situation to get the specific information and data we need to answer this question.

From past experience, we also know that influenza may cause mild disease in affluent countries, but more severe disease, with higher mortality, in developing countries.

No matter what the situation is, the international community should treat this as a window of opportunity to ramp up preparedness and response.

Above all, this is an opportunity for global solidarity as we look for responses and solutions that benefit all countries, all of humanity. After all, it really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic.

As I have said, we do not have all the answers right now, but we will get them.
—- end of her remarks —-
The latest WHO Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response release puts the total number of confirmed cases at 148, in 9 countries, with 8 deaths. Mexico has many more suspected cases but just 26 confirmed cases. The CDC Swine Influenza site, puts the total number of confirmed cases in the USA at 91, in 10 states, with 1 death.

Related: Swine Flu: a Quick OverviewSwine Flu One Step Closer to Pandemicposts on influenzaWhy the Flu Likes WinterReducing the Impact of a Flu Pandemic

Swine Flu: a Quick Overview

World Health Organization on Swine influenza

After reviewing available data on the current situation, Committee members identified a number of gaps in knowledge about the clinical features, epidemiology, and virology of reported cases and the appropriate responses. The Committee advised that answers to several specific questions were needed to facilitate its work.

The Committee nevertheless agreed that the current situation constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.

Based on this advice, the Director-General has determined that the current events constitute a public health emergency of international concern, under the Regulations.

Swine flu: a quick overview–and new New York and Kansas cases by Tara Smith

while the cases in the US have been mild and no deaths have occurred that we’re aware of, it seems in Mexico that young people are dying from this–a group that is typically not hard-hit by seasonal influenza viruses. Readers familiar with influenza and know the history of the 1918 influenza pandemic will recall that the “young and healthy” were disproportionally struck by that virus as well–so this knowledge is currently disconcerting and worrisome, but there are so many gaps in our information as far as what’s really going on in Mexico that it’s difficult to make heads or tails out of this data right now.

Third, is this really a new virus? So few influenza isolates are actually analyzed each year (in proportion to the number of people infected) that we aren’t sure yet whether this is something brand-new, or something that has been circulating at a low level for awhile, but just hadn’t been picked up. After all, H1N1 is a common serotype, so additional molecular testing is needed to determine that it’s “swine flu” versus “human” H1N1.

this is a fast-developing story, and it will take much more investigation and field work to determine the true extent of the virus’s spread in the population; to figure out… how efficiently it’s transmitted…

This is very early in the scientific inquiry process looking into what exactly is going on. It is too early to tell how serious a threat this is. The reaction of WHO, CDC though shows they are taking the threat seriously. By far the biggest danger in such situations, is reacting too slowly to serious and contagious threats. If you wait to react until proof exists that the situation is very serious the situation can be almost impossible to control. So you need to react quickly to shut down the spread of the threat, hopefully before it has spread too far.

Related: CDC site on Human Swine Influenza InvestigationInterview with Dr. Tara SmithReducing the Impact of a Flu PandemicH5N1 Influenza Evolution and Spread
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‘Virtually untreatable’ TB found

‘Virtually untreatable’ TB found:

TB presently causes about 1.7 million deaths a year worldwide, but researchers are worried about the emergence of strains that are resistant to drugs.

Drug resistance is caused by poor TB control, through taking the wrong types of drugs for the incorrect duration.

Multi-drug resistant TB (MDR TB), which describes strains of TB that are resistant to at least two of the main first-line TB drugs, is already a growing concern.

Globally, the WHO estimates there are about 425,000 cases of MDR TB a year, mostly occurring in the former Soviet Union, China and India.

TB Related posts: Extensively Drug-resistant Tuberculosis (XDR TB), May 2007Deadly TB Strain is Spreading, WHO Warns, Mar 2007Tuberculosis Pandemic Threat, Jan 2007

Related: Evolution of Antibiotic ResistanceOveruse of Antibiotics

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