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What we know about swine flu, and what we don’t
Influenza virus has only eight genes. The molecular structure of the most important proteins they code for is known in intimate detail. The coming and going of its epidemics have been studied by statisticians continually since the 1840s. But predicting pandemics remains a fools’ game.
It falls into the category of Alvin Weinberg’s ‘trans-science’ – a question of fact that can be stated in the language of science but is unanswerable by it.
Weinberg’s examples focused on the impossibility of predicting the probability of extremely improbable events. There have only been three influenza pandemics in the last century: in 1918, 1957 and 1964. The uncertainty is massively amplified by evolution – the random and frequent genetic mutations and the swapping of genes between bird, pig and human viruses.
The Path of a Pandemic
How one virus spread from pigs and birds to humans around the globe. And why microbes like the H1N1 flu have become a growing threat.
From the magazine issue dated May 18, 2009
Around Thanksgiving 2005 a teenage boy helped his brother-in-law butcher 31 pigs at a local Wisconsin slaughterhouse, and a week later the 17-year-old pinned down another pig while it was gutted. In the lead-up to the holidays the boy's family bought a chicken and kept the animal in their home, out of the harsh Sheboygan autumn.
On Dec. 7, the teenager came down with the flu, suffering an illness that lasted three days. He visited a local clinic, then fully recovered, and nobody else in his family took ill.
This incident would hardly seem worth mentioning except that the influenza virus that infected the Wisconsin lad was unlike any previously seen. It appeared to be a mosaic of a wild-bird form of flu, a human type and a strain found in pigs.
It was an H1N1 swine influenza. Largely ignored at the time, the Wisconsin virus was a step along the evolutionary tree, leading to a virus that four years later would stun the world.
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Robert Rector: Life in the time of swine flu
Just this past week, I performed a number of death-defying acts, each one so profoundly heroic that strong men trembled and weak men cried.
Influenza A(H1N1) - update 24
10 May 2009 -- As of 07:30 GMT, 10 May 2009, 29 countries have officially reported 4379 cases of influenza A(H1N1) infection.
Mexico has reported 1626 laboratory confirmed human cases of infection, including 45 deaths. The United States has reported 2254 laboratory confirmed human cases, including two deaths. Canada has reported 280 laboratory confirmed human cases, including one death. Costa Rica has reported eight laboratory confirmed human cases, including one death.
The following countries have reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths - Argentina (1), Australia (1), Austria (1), Brazil (6), China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (1), Colombia (1), Denmark (1), El Salvador (2), France (12), Germany (11), Guatemala (1), Ireland (1), Israel (7), Italy (9), Japan (4), Netherlands (3), New Zealand (7), Panama (3), Poland (1), Portugal (1), Republic of Korea (3), Spain (93), Sweden (1), Switzerland (1) and the United Kingdom (39).
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Swine flu confirmed in Alberta woman who died
May 9, 2009
EDMONTON - The death of a northern Alberta woman last week is Canada's first associated with swine flu, but no one knows if H1N1 killed her, officials said Friday.
The woman, identified by family members as a 39-year-old who checked herself into hospital in High Prairie, Alta., with asthma problems, died April 28. Doctors didn't suspect the flu virus. On May 5, her mother, who shared a house with her on a northern Alberta Metis settlement, was found to have a mild form of the disease caused by the H1N1 virus. That's when the provincial government took a closer look.
On May 7, a provincial lab confirmed the dead woman had the same virus, Alberta officials said Friday.
Hmmm...and I ask again...what's the right numbers?!?
Press Release on highly infectious Swine Influenza Virus in Mexico and other Countries
source: Republic of Botswana (9/5/09)
C14) 27/4/09: PRESS RELEASE ON HIGHLY INFECTIOUS SWINE INFLUENZA VIRUS IN MEXICO AND OTHER COUNTRIES.
As of April 24, 2009 WHO reported a flu like illness in Mexico which was responsible for more than 882 cases and 62 deaths due to pneumonia, following the surveillance that started on the 18th March, 2009. The virus responsible for this infection was confirmed to be Swine Influenza type A/H1N1. This death toll rose to 103 by the 27th of April, 2009. So far beside Mexico, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Israel, France, Spain are also affected by the virus.
This virus is contagious and spreads from infected pigs to humans and from human to human through respiratory droplets.
It may also be spread when a person touch respiratory droplets on another person or on an object and then touches their own mouth, eye or nose, before washing their hands.
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H1N1 flu tally 4,379 in 29 countries - WHO
Sun May 10, 2009 8:52am EDT
* 4,379 people infected with H1N1 flu in 29 countries
* Big increase in confirmed cases in United States
* First death reported in Costa Rica
ZURICH, May 10 (Reuters) - H1N1 flu has infected 4,379 people in 29 countries, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Sunday, increasing its count by almost a thousand in a day.
The WHO tally tends to lag national reports but is considered more definitive.
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Panama reports its first in-country transmission of new influenza H1N1
10 May 2009
The minister of health of Panama has confirmed the third case of the new strain of influenza H1N1 in the country. A young lady contracted the infection after being in contact with the first case, a young male adult, that was confirmed in the country two days ago.
US: CDC Confirms 2,532 Human Cases of Influenza A (H1N1) in 44 States, Total of 3 Deaths Nationwide #swineflu2 minutes ago from web
FRIDAY, May 8 (HealthDay News) -- The swine flu outbreak in the United States is far from over, with hundreds of new cases being reported each day, federal health officials cautioned on Friday.
"I want to address an issue that's been concerning me, that has to do with a sense of having dodged a bullet, a sense that this is over," Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during an afternoon teleconference. "While we have seen a lot of encouraging news in terms of severity, we continue to see hundreds and hundreds of new cases each day,"
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Swine flu spreads through Illinois
May 10, 2009
The H1N1 swine flu continues to spread in Illinois, according to the state Department of Public Health Web site, which lists 466 confirmed cases.
Chicago Public School officials closed Northside Learning Center in Jefferson Park on Friday because the absentee rate was three times what it should be this time of year. It will remain closed on Monday.