I’ve been following with huge interest the Swine Flu epidemic that originated in Mexico City and is now confirmed in the United States.
This is serious stuff, because this is not your ordinary flu bug – it’s a combination of pig (swine), bird (avian) and human viruses, of which we humans do not have a natural immunity for.
Reports are showing at least 1,400 people infected in Mexico and from 80-200 people dead.
Earlier today, the Obama administration declared a “public health emergency,” as U.S. health officials warned that further cases of swine flu are likely to emerge in the U.S.
Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano described the declaration as “standard operating procedure” to allow the federal and state governments easier access to flu tests and medication.
Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that over time “more severe” cases of disease are likely to surface. He said that officials so far have identified 20 cases in the U.S.
What’s really frightening are the reports coming directly from Mexican doctors, nurses and hospital staff on the front lines emailed to BBC News. Read on for their stories.
Students Fall Ill in New York, and Swine Flu Is Likely Cause
Tests show that eight students at a Queens high school are likely to have contracted the human swine flu virus that has struck Mexico and a small number of other people in the United States, health officials in New York City said yesterday.
The students were among about 100 at St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows who became sick in the last few days, said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City’s health commissioner.
“All the cases were mild, no child was hospitalized, no child was seriously ill,” Dr. Frieden said.
Health officials reached their preliminary conclusion after conducting viral tests on nose or throat swabs from the eight students, which allowed them to eliminate other strains of flu. Officials were also suspicious since some St. Francis students recently had been to Mexico, where the outbreak is believed to have started.
The president in Mexico assumed emergency powers to deal with the crisis, which has killed at least 81 people and infected about 1,300 others. All public gatherings have been banned, including more than 500 concerts and sporting events and the popular bicycle rides on closed boulevards.
Dr. Margaret Chan, the director-general of the World Health Organization, said the events in Mexico “constitute a public health emergency of international concern.”
Mexican Doctor: Real Figure is 200 Dead, Situation “OUT OF CONTROL”
Quotes from doctors on the scene in Mexico City:
I work as a resident doctor in one of the biggest hospitals in Mexico City and sadly, the situation is far from “under control”. Authorities distributed vaccines among all the medical personnel with no results, because two of my partners who worked in this hospital (interns) were killed by this new virus in less than six days even though they were vaccinated as all of us were. The official number of deaths is 20, nevertheless, the true number of victims are more than 200. I understand that we must avoid to panic, but telling the truth it might be better now to prevent and avoid more deaths.
Dr Yeny Gregorio Divila, Mexico City
“The situation in Mexico City is really not normal. There is a sense of uncertainty that borders on paranoid behaviour in some cases. At this very moment, Mexican TV is showing how military forces are giving masks to the people in the streets. Moreover the news is sending alarming messages for the audience. Really, the atmosphere in the city is unsettling, a good example: pubs and concerts are being closed or cancelled and people don’t haven thorough information. In this city (and country) there is an urgent need for assertive information, no paranoid messages from the government or the Mexican media.”
Dr Patricio Barrientos and Dr Aranzazu Nuïez, Mexico City
“Massive events have been cancelled at the National Auditorium – Mexico City’s largest indoor venue with capacity of 10,000 – which has been closed. Two soccer games have been cancelled at the Olympic Stadium. A sold out game with 70,000 expected attendance will be played behind closed doors. Another game at the famous Azteca Stadium that would draw an attendance of 50,000 will also be played behind closed doors.”
Juan Carlos Leon Calderon, Mexico City
“It’s eerily quiet here in the capital. Lots of people with masks, Facebook communities exchanging gallows humour, everybody waiting to see if schools and universities will stay closed for ten days (as goes the rumour). All masks have been used up, and we are waiting for new supplies.”
Dr Duncan Wood, Mexico City
The World Health Organization has now declared swine flu a public health emergency. To stay on top of this serious development I recommend the following resources:
- Effective Measure – a forum for progressive Public Health Discussions
- Crawford Killian’s blog on Swine and Asian Flu
- Flu Wiki Forum
- Avian Flu Diary
- Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy
The fact that The White House issued a nationwide alert underscores just how serious this situation is, and that it will only get worse. Everyone needs to make sure they have a strong immune system to fight this and any insidious disease.