General Question

skfinkel's avatar

I am already suspicious of all this flu talk...who is dying in Mexico City...the poor and untreated?

Asked by skfinkel (13506points) April 27th, 2009

The few cases in the US—no one has died. Is this because it is a mild flu? because we have better health care? or, if it is a pandemic like in 1918, it is most mild on the first run, in which case, wouldn’t it be better to get it now and not next winter when it gets more virulent?

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39 Answers

tinyfaery's avatar

I’ll include this in my media hysteria file, along with SARS, bird flue and west nile virus. Shouldn’t we all be dead by now?

jca's avatar

who are vulnerable are the elderly and the young children.

3or4monsters's avatar

I had bacon on an egg salad sandwich last week, and now I have the sniffles… pretty sure it’s swine flu.

skfinkel's avatar

Actually, I heard that this flu is affecting the healthy young adults. But still….

augustlan's avatar

Rob may be on to something. I honestly have no idea if he is correct, but it would certainly make sense.

Aethelwine's avatar

Healthy young adults have been affected. According to the CDC at a recent White House Briefing, more severe cases are likely.

jca's avatar

you know, people are joking but god forbid someone you know may get sick and then it won’t be so funny.

Jeruba's avatar

@3or4monsters, if you had bacon and eggs, you probably have swine flu AND bird flu.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Healthy young people GOT it because they were the ones on Spring Break. I don’t think we’ll truly know how bad this flu will be until NEXT winter. Til then I hope everyone washes their hands frequently.

jlm11f's avatar

Actually, the reason it is affecting the healthy, young people more than the debilitated people is because the healthy people have a stronger/better immune response. The virus acts as a superantigen, activating a HUGE amount of cytokines in the body (like in Toxic Shock Syndrome) and this is causing fluid in the lungs, which is essentially what the people are dying of (i.e. fluid in lungs).

kevbo's avatar

Here’s what’s sticking in my craw (from CDC press briefing transcripts):

We know so far that the viruses contain genetic pieces from four different virus sources. This is unusual. The first is our North American swine influenza viruses. North American avian influenza viruses, human influenza viruses and swine influenza viruses found in Asia and Europe.

That particular genetic combination of swine influenza virus segments has not been recognized before in the U.S. or elsewhere. Of course, we are doing more testing now and looking more aggressively for unusual influenza strains. So we haven’t seen this strain before but we haven’t been looking as intensively as we are these days.

The viruses are resistant to amantadine and rimantadine anti-viral drugs but they are sensitive or susceptible to oseltamivir and zanamivir, the newer anti-viral drugs for flu. And at this time we don’t know exactly how people got the virus. None of the [seven] patients have had direct contact with pigs.

You can get swine influenza without direct contact but it’s a bit more unusual. And we believe at this point that human-to-human spread is occurring. That’s unusual.


RICHARD KNOX: Hi, thanks very much, I appreciate it. Two different kinds of questions. One, is can you tell us anything more about what the aviance (ph) sequence has been found in any of these viruses and what that might imply? And whether you’ve ever seen before such a desperate mixing from four different strains in a single virus as well?

SCHUCHAT: Yes, let me actually answer that and then offer that we could get you more information in follow-up. I think it’s – the virus – what we have is unusual the reassortant (ph) with these four genetic sequences is unusual. The avian (ph) lineage I don’t have that information and if it’s available we can try to get it for you later.

FrankHebusSmith's avatar

A friend of mine literally is doing his Post-grad work on the flu. He put it as follows (jist of it)

It’s JUST as strong/virulent/deadly as the REGULAR flu. The only reason they’re making a fuss out of it is because it is mutated from an animal strain, and as such we don’t have any medications specific to this strain.

In otherwords, if you don’t normally get a flu shot anyways and you caught this, it would basically be JUST LIKE THE REGULAR FLU.

Stop panicking, it is not the next spanish flu. It won’t even be close.

BookReader's avatar

…personally, i’m waiting ” ‘til i see the whites of it’s eyes”...

…until then, my heart goes out to each and all…keep the news coming- thanks!

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

We’ve all seen this before. It’s a mean sounding disease but the panic and hysteria this media blitz is generating is far worse. The problem with these illness scares is that people flood into the hospitals who aren’t really sick and this takes away from the people who really are sick.

ragingloli's avatar

may i summarise this with a picture:

madmax303's avatar

does this mean we shouldnt eat pork

robmandu's avatar

I think it means you shouldn’t lie down with pigs.

Cooking their meat thoroughly and eating it is just fine.

3or4monsters's avatar

@jca I’m not mocking the people who got sick from this flu; it’s the media and their OMGFREAKOUT! that I’m mocking. It’s all over the news, oh so many blog posts (seriously, I read a post this morning about a guy who self-diagnosed himself with swine flu and beat it with herbal tea… really? REALLY?), twitter, facebook… honestly, people are getting whipped up into a frenzy. Unless cases have been reported CONFIRMED in your neck of the woods, I don’t think there’s any reason for panic or paranoia.

Until that happens, most of us just need to wash our hands often, avoid touching our faces, and not let sick people sneeze on us…. as we should be doing anyways.

shilolo's avatar

The CDC is worried any time there is a respiratory virus or influenza outbreak. Because we haven’t had a global influenza pandemic in a while, we are “due”. Also, the CDC (and ID doctors) worry anytime there is genetic reassortment because it can dramatically change the phenotype of the virus, obviating decades of built-up immunity in the global population to seasonal strains. Thus, reassorted influenza (swine or avian) has the capacity to infect immune individuals and to potentially cause more severe if other virulence properties are modified at the same time.

In terms of why people in Mexico are dying versus the US, there is no reliable information. It could be that what we are seeing in Mexico is the “second wave” of illnesses. Perhaps a month ago in Mexico there were mild cases that were undiagnosed (much like the mild cases we are seeing in the US now), but this new surge of disease is affecting many more people, some of whom are experiencing more severe symptoms (and death). We may still see the same thing in the US, but we may not since we are more aware of the danger and are aggressively searching and quarantining infected individuals.

Finally, this disease is treatable with either oseltamivir or zanamivir, so it isn’t resistant to treatment, as others have suggested.

robmandu's avatar

Las Vegas must love it when the CDC staff come to town, being ardent followers of the gambler’s fallacy that they apparently are. ;-)

shilolo's avatar

@robmandu I see where you are going with this. But, history has shown that we have influenza pandemics every 20–30 years or so, and we haven’t had one in more than 40, so…

jca's avatar

there was an outbreak of swine flu in the 1970’s.

robmandu's avatar

@shilolo, yah… but we’re not talking plate tectonics here, where the pressure builds up measurably over time and must eventually release.

Epidemics – as you know better than I – are rooted in a large number of variables. Many of the factors present as recent as 40 years ago are no longer in play. Ignorance, for example, is diminished as we know much more about viral and bacterial interactions these days.

And then on the flip side, new factors are present now, too. New antibiotic and antiviral medicines can be employed. At the same time, many diseases are now immune to older medicines which makes treatment tricky.

My point is, I don’t subscribe to the theory that we’re “due” for another epidemic. If we roll snake eyes this time, it’s because the factors and variables in play demand it. Not because it’s been x number of years without an epidemic. In other words, I doubt that any statistical corollary exists between pandemics and the length of time between them.

Even if you were to point to length of time, I’d ask why that much time? So the population could reach some critical mass? Well then, time isn’t the issue there… it’s the population density. See what I mean?

shilolo's avatar

@robmandu Good points. But, it has more to do with waning human immunity to circulating influenza strains and the probabilities of reassortment of the virus to produce novel hemagglutinin molecules. In fact, the current swine flu is likely not going to be a pandemic because its hemagglutinin molecule is similar to known strains.

augustlan's avatar

@shilolo Hemagglutiwhaaat?

jca's avatar

the first confirmed US death: a 23 month old in Texas.

It’s not so funny now, is it?

robmandu's avatar

No, it was never funny.

But you need to understand that each year 36,000 people die from flu-related causes in the U.S.

I don’t know that we’ve seen anything statistically significant yet. Media significance does not qualify.

Well, it might be a little funny.

jca's avatar

i’m sure the parents of the baby that died are not laughing.

Aethelwine's avatar

The 36,000 that die from the flu in the U.S. are mostly the elderly or people with health problems. The majority of people that have died from this flu in Mexico are 25–45 years of age.

tinyfaery's avatar

It would be a shock if people didn’t die.

robmandu's avatar

The direct-from-pig variant is known to be more lethal.

My understanding, at this point, is that the variant in the U.S. is a human-to-human mutation… and as such, has proven to be less lethal.

I have no idea whatsoever how so many people in Mexico might have come in direct contact with infected pigs. For all I know, they contracted a human-to-human variant. The thing is, viruses mutate all the time… usually trending toward being less dangerous with each mutation.

Point is, there’s a lot that most of us don’t know. As such, I see no reason to freak out as the guesswork almost always involves some sort of worst-case scenario.

Still, it is definitely a weird thing: being a mix of 2 avian flus, 1 swine flu, and 1 human that have combined to form the one we’re seeing now.

I wonder if they’ve found Patient Zero. That would likely answer a lot.

[Update]: Oh, they have.

3or4monsters's avatar

@jca are you trying to guilt me into feeling bad about making a joke about the media? I liked you better when you were running around in every question even remotely related to this subject, crying about the sky falling.

I don’t feel bad about what I said, you need to lighten up, and shame on you for using the death of a toddler to feel self righteous about a difference of opinion you had on the internet.

ragingloli's avatar

@jca just a texan
and nothing of value was lost.

jca's avatar

@3or4monsters: don’t tell me how i feel. You don’t know me and you don’t know how I feel.

jlm11f's avatar

@robmandu – It has been decided that the swine flu is actually just a mix of two pig strains as opposed to what was thought initially about being a mix of avian, human and pig.

Jeruba's avatar

And it’s been given another name now by the W.H.O. so whole countries won’t order the slaughter of all the pigs, as Egypt was doing.

skfinkel's avatar

@ica: No one ever said this was funny. It’s difficult to discern what is going on, that’s all. It’s always a tragedy when someone dies, especially a baby.

I read today (in the NY Times) that perhaps more people were dying in Mexico from the flu because they tend to shy away from doctors until they are literally at death’s door. So they will try holistic, antibiotics, and other treatments self-proscribed until nothing works. I think people in the US are almost the opposite.

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