H1N1 swine flu spreading in U.S. and Canada
Back in 2009-2010 there were major fears of an H1N1 pandemic — the flu did claim somewhere around 20,000 lives worldwide, mostly in China and third world countries, but the fears of a major pandemic along the lines of the 1918 influenza did not pan out.
The situation now is more worrying. In the past month, there have been 5 confirmed deaths from a more virulent and more easily spread from human-to-human version of the virus in eastern Texas. Close to two dozen deaths there are suspected but not yet confirmed. In addition to eastern Texas, there has been an outbreak of confirmed cases clustering in Michigan — at least 6 have died and more than a dozen people suffering from it are in critical condition on life support. Yesterday, the first confirmed deaths from H1N1 were recorded in California, Oregon and Indiana. 5 deaths from H1N1 have now been confirmed in the past week in Alberta, Canada (with nearly 1,000 more new cases of infection confirmed), three in Saskatchewan, and, as of yesterday, two more deaths in Toronto.
The CDC is reporting (as of 9 hours ago as I write this) that 25 U.S. States are reporting widespread infection from “flu” — though they do not report the strains involved. Many are undoubtedly from the various flu strains that hit every year but….
What is causing serious concern is that, even though it is flu season, doctors from the CDC and Canada’s corollary are saying that H1N1 is so far the most prevalent form of flu being seen so far this winter (more than half the cases) and the most prevalent in causing deaths. That is causing something well short of a panic among the scientific community but raising alarm bells. Another thing raising alarm bells is that a much higher proportion of the confirmed deaths are people not generally in the fatal category — in other words, it isn’t just causing death or life-threatening symptoms in the very young, the very old and those who have other immune-system compromising problems (e.g., pregnancy, chronic illness). In other words, a higher number of people ‘in the prime of life’ are becoming fatalities or going into critical condition so far than is usually seen. What makes my personal alarm bells ring is the reports that the virus seems to be mutating and very rapidly, becoming not only more easily spread but more virulent and already modifying to overcome the current vaccines.