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Pandemic Flu

Revised Introduction III – January 2012

The flu season is upon us in the northern climes and just ending in the southern climate zones.  The Avian Flu is back in the news, though the headlines are not as scary as thre years ago when the threat of global pandemic seemed real.  The mysterious flu bugs have been around for decades, and at times serious pandemics have flared, with global consequences.  It seemed like that was going to happen in 2009-2009, and to some extent perhaps early in 2010.

We continued to monitor flu-related media coverage in our Hot Topics, archiving older reports for the convenience of our readers who may want to research the topic.  With media coverage increasing in early winter, we have resumed the “active” status of this Hot Topic.

Revised Introduction II

As summer 2011 comes to an end, the flu season begins in the Northern Hemisphere and ends in the Southern Hemisphere.  We archived this Hot Topic after the “scare” passed and flu season wound down in 201-2011.  But we kept monitoring and adding content.

September 1, 2011 – The Editors have reactivated the Hot Topic (Pandemic Flu).  There are reports coming out of Southeast Asia that the HiN1 infections are present, including a more virulent type that resists drug treatments. 

 

Here are post introductions as background:

2010/2011 --- The H1Ni influenza pandemic has been officially declared at an end by the World Health Organization.  The editors are moving this Hot Topic to the archive section where all files will still be available.

This is the official statement:  “On August 10, 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee and the WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan declared an end to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. This declaration was based on strong indications that influenza, worldwide, is transitioning toward seasonal patterns of transmission.” – World Health Organization news release.

With this announcement the WHO officially declared the much publicized --and much feared -- H1N1 flu epidemic over….but is it? What many ignored were the additional comments from WHO: “The world is now in the post-pandemic period. Based on knowledge about past pandemics, the H1N1 (2009) virus is expected to continue to circulate as a seasonal virus for some years to come. While the level of concern is now greatly diminished, vigilance on the part of national health authorities remains important. Such vigilance is especially critical in the immediate post-pandemic period, when the behavior of the H1N1 (2009) virus as a seasonal virus cannot be reliably predicted.”

Plainly put, the pandemic is over, but it is not quite “over.”  The worldwide threat of cataclysmic proportions similar to the 1918- 1919 flu pandemic certainly did not materialize, but mostly  young people  and pregnant women did contract the virus, were hospitalized and thousands did die.  For those infected the pandemic was all too real.

The event has lead to both criticism and praise of WHO, and national, state and local governments, and drug companies for a lack of response, adequate response, inadequate response and also over response.  The lessons learned by all those agencies, countries and health officials and companies will probably be the greatest legacy of the H1 N1 virus, the first flu pandemic to assault the humankind in modern times.  The question of the level off response to the threat has, is and will be debated for some time.

Here in AC’s Hot Topic the Pandemic Flu section, we will continue to monitor H1N1 and other potential pandemics since we may have dodged this bullet, but  there are other threats still lurking.  Also, we can’t forget WHO’s statement that, “the behavior of the H1N1 (2009) virus as a seasonal virus cannot be reliably predicted.”   As of this writing in August 2010 reports are still surfacing from New Zealand, and Southeast Asia of H1N1 cases and deaths.  We will have to wait and see if the virus will return in a mutated form, or some other virus will take its place and challenge our ability to control its spread.  AC will continue to report news, commentary and research  on the flu pandemic in this archived content silo.

 

Original Introduction – 2009

Focus:  The Influenza Pandemic of 2009-2010 

The winter “flu” season is just about here in the Northern climes, and winter is ending in the Southern Hemisphere nations.  The “swine flu” outbreak that was first detected earlier in 2009 in Mexico is now widely identified by public health officials as the H1N1 strain of influenza (there are many strains existent and new ones emerge regularly). There have been many cases in a number of countries around the world to date. 

Will there be a serious flu pandemic in the USA…in Europe and the UK…and in other nations in the winter of 2009-2010?  Signs are there that the answer is…Yes!  We have created this new Hot Topic focus for you to bring you news, commentary and other important information as winter approaches. 

We can’t be too cautious:  An estimated 700,000 or more Americans died as a result of the influenza pandemic outbreak of 1918-1919.  Many victims were young men and women whose immune systems were overcome, causing serious illness and death.  Researchers estimate the world-wide death toll in that pandemic almost a century ago was between 30-50 million people.  (Some public health estimates range up to 100 million.) 

Good news:  Things have changed in the past 90 years in the realm of medical science, public health, prevention, drugs for treatment, vaccines for prevention, mass (public) communication, and in world cultures.  What hasn’t changed: pandemics continue to be a real and dangerous threat to the economic stability and health of entire nations…regions…and the world.  

There is currently no reason to believe that the H1N1 will cause as serious a situation as in 1918, but in the USA the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology indicated in a report (issued in August 2009) that the H1N1 "poses a serious health threat"  to the nation.   

There is a potential for both economic and social disruption that could cause severe economic distress and social upheaval.  Good governance and accountability calls for proper preparation, oversight and proactive steps by government agencies, educational institutions, the business community and families and individuals.  And effective response!  This Hot Topic section presents research and commentary on the H1N1 threat along with the latest news on what is happening around the nation and the world.
Here are some sobering facts from the experts:

  • The H1N1 (swine flu) virus is spreading from person-to-person in much the same way, that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread.
  • A pandemic flu could spread rapidly worldwide; cause an overload on medical facilities and personnel; outstrip the availability of medical supplies; and create great economic and social hardship.
  • The US President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology estimates that half of the US population [of 300 million-plus) could be inflected by the flu and deaths could be as high as 80,000 nationwide. Preventative measures would dramatically reduce these incidents of infection and death.  
  • The flu infections are 20 times more common in the 5- to 24-year-old age group than in people over 65. Death from the flu worldwide is occurring mostly among people in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.
  • H1N1 was first detected in people in the United States in April 2009. As of September 1, 2009 there were 8,842 individuals hospitalized for the flu and 556 reported deaths.
  • Experts agree that preventative measures should include being vaccinated when the new vaccine becomes available in October/November; the frequent washing of hands, and staying home from work or school if sick. 
  • Consult the HHS  Pandemic Flu Planning Checklist for Individuals & Families for detailed planning information

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