Etikettarkiv: influenza

The victims of Swine Pest

Who are the real victims of the recent Influenza A/H1N1, also known as Swine Flu, scare from the media? Of all the cases of people who unfortunately got infected there were 26 deaths and still it got a whooping rating of 5 out of 6 on the WHO pandemic scale, the highest rating anything ever has got on the scale since its start in 2005 (just after the last scare the bird flu). 

It is clear that this scale is not based on the actual lethality or how easy people are infected, a normal flu that we have yearly kills somewhere around 500 000 people (mostly those already sick or at a avery young or very advanced age) world wide and infects millions and it never get more than a ”yeah whateva” from the WHO pandemic scale – the . Where is the sense for proportions here?

I even had several people sending emails, almost daily about buying stocks of gloves, breathing masks, handwash alcohol, sterilization fluids and other such good to have if the Great Pandemic should strike us down.

Let’s take a look at what actually happened. The three top nations had the following statistics:

Mexico: 1 112 cases, 42 deaths
USA:  653 cases, 1 death
Canada: 165 cases, 0 deaths.

Out of a total of 1 930 confirmed cases in three countries there were 43 deaths.

The name itself provoked some responses, Egypt took the chance to rid the country of some 250 000 pigs because of it. Other nations had similar responses, some of the more extreme left-wing people in in Europe started to demand new vaccine factories being built.

For this people where hammered in the media with article after article about how to isolate themselves from the greater society and avoid the pig plague by avoiding contact with other people. The economical cost of the scare when people starts hamstering medicine and canned food is outrageous. In Australia people where told by local goverment no less to stock up for at least two weeks worth of food, for their personal survival.

Whole communities in the US shut down schools, work places and public office buildings for no other reason than fear based in the drummed up scare tactics of the public media conglomerates. Even when the more scientifically sound organisations finally came out and tried to calm people down they did not get by far the same headlines as the stories designed to scare people got.

Cuba closed all air traffic with Mexico, other countries followed suit leaving people there on holiday stranded for fear of a pandemy that already showed all signs of being low-risk.

I find this to be total madness.

The Swine Pest

The scare of the Influenza A/H1N1 type that goes around the world is parallelled only by the scare in 2004 about the avian flu. That time the situation was actually scarier because of the aggressiveness and severity of the infection in humans in those cases that got infected. The fear that H5N1 would cross with another strain, say the ordinary Hong Kong flu and create something potent and lethal that easily transmits between people was real however.

Oh boy...
When the swine strikes back

But this time it is a little bit different. Out of 77 deaths in Mexico health officials have found only 2 deaths related to the actual Influenza A/H1N1 strain. In countries outside Mexico the infections does not seem to be that severe and although influenza is always a nasty business people are recovering and in many cases it seems to be no workse than the yearly influenza that hits us, usually from Asia and the type that the elderly and infirm is recommended to get influenza inoculation shots for.

The swine flu name is actually a misnomer since the current strain that everyone is watching is not normally found among pigs (but pigs may become infected just like humans may). It is a new strain and right now it is thought that ”patient zero” has been found in Mexico a small boy who apparently got infected with more than one flu at the same time and the new hybrid was born, infecting people around him and so on.

People in different parts of the world are responding in different ways most of these more drastic actions are based in religious superstition and fear. In the Islamic faith the pig is viewed as an unclean animal. Most Muslims do therefore not eat pork in any form and even in the old testament it is written that pigs are not fit as food for people.

Recently in Egypt, a predominately Muslim country where 90% of the population are osbserving and confessing Sunni Muslims and the remaining population mainly Coptic Christians (and many observes the prohibition against eating the flesh of swine) and what happens?

The government decided to cull some 250 000 pigs as a response in an insane strike against – you guessed it – swine flu. It was not until WHO came out in the open and recommended everyone to stop using the name ”swine flu” that officials in Egypt came forward and said they only used the swine flu as an excuse to rid the country of ”disorderly pig rearing”.

Here in Sweden we see other responses equally based in fear and superstition as the Egyptian decision to cull all pigs, one is to spend money on starting to build vaccine factories and similar. The point here is that it takes between 3-9 months to find a effective vaccine and normally we have that kind of warning before influenza strikes, but this time a strain like this may be far more complex to beat and the influenza would be over us already before the vaccine could have been developed. And there are no ”fit all” vaccines, they have to be tailored specifically for each strain. By the time the vaccine is out this scare is probably over already.

Sweden has a contract with one of the biggest makersof vaccine, Glaxo Smithkline that allow us access to 18 million doses of flu vaccine in case a world wide outbreak should hit us in the coming years.

Avian Flu Medication Lost its Potency

H5N1 in a computer rendering of its protein shell.

Today the Swedish radio reported that in one year the most commonly used medication against influenza viruses; Tamiflu the medication each and everyone stockpiled in 2005 and actually one of the few medications that was somewhat useful in the treatment of bird flu infected humans have lost a lot of its potency because the flu strains has become resistant to it.

This is a problematic development because there are not many other medications that have effect on this dangerous illness and the scare that it would combine with an ordinary flu to form a ”super flu” for which we do not have a treatment has been actualized again because of this.

In fact several countries who stockpiled Tamiflu are now just going to destroy it – basically incinerate it. In many cases this is a result of decision makers not listening to the scientists telling them that Tamiflu would probably not be the best way to spend the resources to combat avian flu virus.

Last time when the bird flu was on everybody’s lips (figuratively) many voices where heard crying out that the government should start stockpiling Tamiflu, licencse it and start whole new factories to make extremely large quantities of such medications in order to have ”enough medication for everyon”  in the event that bird flu should become the pandemic that some thought it might become.

The scientists at the time tried to explain that it was a bad use of resources for several reasons including the very true reason that the human version of the bird flu, the ”super flu” would be different from the bird flu virus in several ways and the Tamiflu medication may not have any effect at all on this form if it formed and in fact it was better to work from the other end with more research on bird flu itself and to prepare to find a more suitable medication tailored to the new flu when it emerged.

But this is very difficult to do unless you have an infected population to work from and to create a medication for an illness that does not exist is very difficult to not say rather impossible.

The Avian Flu virus have mutated into several strains since it was observed closely in 2005 and common antigens have been found but there is enough variation within the group of avian flu viruses that it is not possible to create a single ”strike all” medication and therefore stockpiling the Tamiflu is at best a waste of money.

Now we have observed strains that are resistant to the drug and therefore can not effectively be treated with it so if the resources had been spent on more and better research instead we might have had a broad spectrum antiviral agent or at least better anti-ful agents for the strains that are most likely to combine with a human flu and form a ”super flu” that we all dread.

Fortsätt läsa Avian Flu Medication Lost its Potency