The hardest part of writing about the swine flu outbreak has been striking the right tone. No doubt, this is a serious threat, as even a mild flu pandemic, on the order of the 1968 Hong Kong flu, would cause significant economic downturn at a time when the country already faces immense financial problems. On the other hand, hyping the threat does a disservice to the very public that the media intends to help.
It's been three days since swine flu made it to the front page of most newspapers, and I'd like to thank all the readers who have chosen to follow PopSci's coverage, instead of retreating to their basements with ammo and clean water. Here are some highlights from the ongoing media frenzy.
And now some good news to end the day. This afternoon, after the US Center for Disease raised the number of swine flu cases in America from 20 to 40, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the pandemic threat level from three to four, out of six. Level four means the virus has been observed transferring from human host to human host without an animal intermediary, and is the final step before the WHO declares a pandemic underway.
With officials testing 17 people in Spain for swine flu infection, the European Union's (EU) health commissioner warned Europeans to steer clear of Mexico and the United States if possible. However, the acting Director of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told CNN that a travel advisory may be premature.
Over the weekend, health officials around the world shifted into high gear as a deadly strain of swine flu began working its way around the globe. On Saturday, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued a health advisory about the flu, while the World Health Organization (WHO) held an emergency meeting, declaring that "current events constitute a public health emergency of international concern."
Call me Immunity. My friends call me "Private I," because that's what I do—I'm a private investigator, a detective, a shamus. I track down criminals and make sure they don't get away with any funny business. Take this one case. Now I know there are a whole lot of bad girls in the city, but this one floozy—let's call her "Flu" for short—she was a real piece of work.
I wasn't prepared for Flu the first time we met. I ran into her at what I like to call my "second office," a half-legal seedy little nightclub joint down by the docks. She was leaning on the piano, pretending to sing the blues. One look at her figure and long blonde hair and you knew she hadn't been hired for her singing voice. We got acquainted. Matters got real friendly; I was too distracted to notice the three tough guys sitting in the corner. Next thing I know, I'm waking up in the gutter, no wallet, high fever, a pounding headache and a throat that feels like I've been gargling broken glass. Damn Flu.
Yesterday we looked at Senator Obama's and Senator McCain's opinions on using science to protect Americans from other countries. Today, we look at the candidates' plans to protect Americans from other organisms. In particular, influenza, which has killed more Americans than all the wars of the 20th Century, combined. Do the candidates have a record of bird flu awareness and bioterrorism prevention? Let's take a look.
The pandemic has hit. The flu has infected millions of people, civilization is on the brink of collapse and there’s only so much vaccine to go around. The plan calls for saving the most vital members of society, the ones who can help save us from the plague. The plan says vaccinate doctors. The plan is wrong.
Though it may seem like merely a yearly inconvenience to most, the flu in fact kills around 36,000 Americans annually and costs the country between $71 and $167 billion dollars; the equivalent of 10 September 11ths in deaths and a Hurricane Katrina in damages every year. Most attempts to prevent the flu focus on vaccination, but a new study suggests drugs could actually prevent the deadliest symptoms of the disease.
A half-decade study to track the flu's travels could lead to better vaccines
By Dawn StoverPosted 04.16.2008 at 2:59 pm 2 Comments
Flu travel patterns
Seasonal influenza strains typically emerge in Asia and spread to the rest of the world along the routes shown here.
Courtesy of NASA/University of Cambridge
Where does the flu come from? Scientists at the University of Cambridge and the World Health Organization's Global Influenza Surveillance Network tracked the migrations of flu viruses and discovered that the most common originate in East and Southeast Asia and spread in a distinctive pattern around the world. Understanding how these viruses evolve and travel will lead to better vaccines against flu epidemics that currently infect 5 to 15 percent of the world's population each year.