Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mexico starts closing publc events because of swine flu; WHO calls it an "emergency"

WHO (the World Health Organization) called the recent outbreak of swine flu “a public health emergency of international concern, under the Regulations”, in a release today by Director-General Margaret Chan, link here.

And Mexico’s president Felipe Calderon issued an order giving him emergency powers to put in place quarantines and other measures. There have been about 1300 cases through late Saturday, with 81 deaths, of H1N1 swine flu. The New York Times story Apr; 25 is by Mark Lacey and Elisabeth Malkin, link here. Mexico has already cancelled many public events.

And in the United States, new cases were reported in Kansas and in a Catholic high school in Queens, New York City. In the U.S. so far, all cases seem to be mild.

The virus is scary because it seems to have mutated significantly in spreading person to person. But it is not clear that it will be particularly virulent in a western population, particularly in warmer months.

I have had flu shots every year except 2006. But in 2002, in February, I caught a URI while in California, which came on suddenly, got better, and relapsed again, with severe cough, starting suddenly as dry with fever, the remnants of which lasted for weeks as phlegm. It was probably a novel strain that had slipped through the vaccines, perhaps similar to this one now. I remember being severely ill at age 15 with “Asian flu” but that as an adult all cases were much milder, even ones which the vaccines missed. After reaching full adulthood, many people find that symptoms of novel influenzas are milder than when they are young, because their bodies have learned how to handle similar viruses. The “new” swine flu is likely to behave this way.

Update: April 27, 2009

Mexico public places will remain closed until May 5 at least.

WHO has declared swine flu at Level 4 (in its Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response, EPR), announcement.

April 29:

Now it's Level 5. The complete index of WHO announcements is here. WHO is still calling it "swine influenza" instead of "H1N1".

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