Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Current level of influenza pandemic alert raised from phase 4 to 5

Even though Pennsylvania does not, as of today, have a confirmed case of swine flu, it's time to start paying serious attention to the latest news from the World Health Organization. We are well advised to consider this period, just as the WHO members stated to the world's countries, to use this time to prepare for the possiblity of an increase in the spread of this disease.

From the WHO website:

Based on assessment of all available information and following several expert consultations, Dr Margaret Chan, WHO's Director-General raised the current level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to 5. She stated that all countries should immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans. At this stage, effective and essential measures include heightened surveillance, early detection and treatment of cases, and infection control in all health facilities.

Statement by WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan

29 April 2009

Ladies and gentlemen,

Based on assessment of all available information, and following several expert consultations, I have decided to raise the current level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to phase 5.

Influenza pandemics must be taken seriously precisely because of their capacity to spread rapidly to every country in the world.

On the positive side, the world is better prepared for an influenza pandemic than at any time in history.

Preparedness measures undertaken because of the threat from H5N1 avian influenza were an investment, and we are now benefitting from this investment.

For the first time in history, we can track the evolution of a pandemic in real-time.

I thank countries who are making the results of their investigations publicly available. This helps us understand the disease.

I am impressed by the work being done by affected countries as they deal with the current outbreaks.

I also want to thank the governments of the USA and Canada for their support to WHO, and to Mexico.

Let me remind you. New diseases are, by definition, poorly understood. Influenza viruses are notorious for their rapid mutation and unpredictable behaviour.

WHO and health authorities in affected countries will not have all the answers immediately, but we will get them.

WHO will be tracking the pandemic at the epidemiological, clinical, and virological levels.

The results of these ongoing assessments will be issued as public health advice, and made publicly available.

All countries should immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans. Countries should remain on high alert for unusual outbreaks of influenza-like illness and severe pneumonia.

At this stage, effective and essential measures include heightened surveillance, early detection and treatment of cases, and infection control in all health facilities.

This change to a higher phase of alert is a signal to governments, to ministries of health and other ministries, to the pharmaceutical industry and the business community that certain actions should now be undertaken with increased urgency, and at an accelerated pace.

I have reached out to donor countries, to UNITAID, to the GAVI Alliance, the World Bank and others to mobilize resources.

I have reached out to companies manufacturing antiviral drugs to assess capacity and all options for ramping up production.

I have also reached out to influenza vaccine manufacturers that can contribute to the production of a pandemic vaccine.

The biggest question, right now, is this: how severe will the pandemic be, especially now at the start?

It is possible that the full clinical spectrum of this disease goes from mild illness to severe disease. We need to continue to monitor the evolution of the situation to get the specific information and data we need to answer this question.

From past experience, we also know that influenza may cause mild disease in affluent countries, but more severe disease, with higher mortality, in developing countries.

No matter what the situation is, the international community should treat this as a window of opportunity to ramp up preparedness and response.

Above all, this is an opportunity for global solidarity as we look for responses and solutions that benefit all countries, all of humanity. After all, it really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic.

As I have said, we do not have all the answers right now, but we will get them.

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

From past experience we know that influenza may cause mild disease in affluent countries, but more severe disease, with higher mortality, in developing countries.

funlanguages said...

A budweiser a day keeps the swine flu away

Dr. Mike Ellis

Ed Naratil said...

Actually Yuengling does a better job.

Here are some facts and photos of the 1918 flu epidemic. Don't take this swine flu to lightly. It could be a major event surpassing the 1918 one.

Karen said...

Received anonymously via email:

It gives death figures for the flu.

Use this link for the flu epidemic it will direct you to:

Karen said...

Thank you, Anonymous.

In today's world the transmission of flu is far more rapid than the 1918 "Spanish flu", and while this virus is supposedly producing a "mild" case of the flu, what happens between now and the fall flu season remains to be seen.

We can only hope that if it does mutate it becomes an even milder form of flu.

Thanks, again.

Anonymous said...

For starters people, there were no antibiotics in 1918. Hospitals didn't have the technology we have today. There were no flu shots,etc.

The spread of the virus will be mild through the summer. By Fall we will have a vsccine.

I am shocked at the continual sky is falling drama coming from people I would have thought had more brains.

Karen said...

Anonymous 12:49 a.m., I certainly hope you're right but even the experts won't predict the course of events with this particular strain of flu.


Flu fighters warn against complacency, seek clues

Dr. Steve Waterman, the head of a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned against taking false comfort from the fact that only one person has died outside Mexico, saying more deaths are likely as the epidemic evolves.


Read entire story here:

Anonymous said...

Why am I not shocked to see
'For starters people, there were no antibiotics in 1918.'
For starters person, antibiotics have no effect on viruses and this is too important a matter to have you spread wrong information.

A Mexican male living in Bridgeport, working here on a legal visa who travels to his home in Mexico was reportedly confirmed as having a case of this.

Do not be lulled into thinking you can treat this with antibiotics. If you experience symptoms, go to a doctor. In the meantime, wash your hands, carry a small bottle of Purell and use it, and cover your mouth if you cough or sneeze.

Karen said...

Thank you, Anonymous 1:27 a.m.

The following informative article was received this morning.


WHO warns of swine flu second wave
2009.05.04 09:29:13 Worldwide

The head of the World Health Organisation is warning that there is no room for complacency in the response to human cases of swine flu. Margaret Chan says the apparent decline in mortality rates does not mean the pandemic is coming to an end, warning that a second wave could strike later in the year "with a vengeance".

The WHO says its laboratories have identified a total of 985 swine flu infections in 20 countries, including El Salvador and Colombia, and says there have been 25 confirmed deaths in Mexico. Ms Chan says no-one should lower their guard. "If it's going to happen it would be the biggest of all outbreaks the world has faced in the 21st century," Dr Chan told Britain's Financial Times. "We hope the virus fizzles out, because if it doesn't we are heading for a big outbreak. I'm not predicting the pandemic will blow up, but if I miss it and we don't prepare, I fail. I'd rather over-prepare than not prepare."

She says the end of the flu season in the northern hemisphere means any initial outbreak could be milder, but a second wave more lethal. Dr Chan says the WHO was basing its assessment on scientific risk and was not scare-mongering, defending its global pandemic alert assessment, which officials have said could soon be raised to the maximum level of six. She says increasing the alert level to six did not mean every country in the world would be affected but was a signal to health authorities to step up control and surveillance measures. Mexican President Felipe Calderon earlier said that the country had contained the epidemic that has killed 22 people and infected 568, while US health officials were "cautiously optimistic" the crisis was easing.

Original source

Karen said...

Source of info on last post.

RSOE EDIS - Pandemic Monitoring System

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:27
I am well aware of the fact that antibiotics don't work on viruses. I was simply trying to put into perspective the difference between the limited healthcare resources during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 and the advanced technology present almost a century later, which includes antibiotic therapy as well as antivirals and life saving treatments not even dreamed of in 1918.
I will pass on inofrmation about the simple universal precautions we should use at all times but I will not go along with this alarmist sky-is-falling nonsense. Example:The fact/photo comparison to the 1918 flu. What does that do but spread more hysteria?
I was told of a woman who had to leave her job and drove home in a hysterical panic because her son had a fever and cold-symptoms. She was almost in a car accident as she drove home crying, all because her son was in Cabo a week earlier.
Come on people! Stop spinning!

Anonymous said...

Perspective, Vigilance
Mixing, The prospect of what is called reassortment

Karen said...

From the link posted by Anonymous 3:56 p.m.


Swine Flu May Merge With Other Flu Viruses, CDC Says (Update2)

Share | Email | Print | A A A

By Tom Randall

May 3 (Bloomberg) -- Swine flu’s potential to reconfigure its genetic material and become more deadly is a “major concern,” said Anne Schuchat, a scientist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The prospect of what is called reassortment is keeping Schuchat and health officials worldwide on the alert even as the newest outbreak has proved itself to be relatively mild outside Mexico, where 19 of the 20 confirmed deaths were reported. Human cases of the disease have been confirmed in 30 U.S. states and 19 countries, according to the CDC and the World Health Organization, a global agency that may declare a pandemic.

Canadian health officials yesterday reported the world’s first case of the swine flu jumping to pigs from a human, probably after a farm worker in the province of Alberta became ill during a trip to Mexico. Additional gene reassortment has the potential to change the makeup of the disease, Schuchat said today in a conference call.

“The prospect of reassortment is always there with influenza,” Schuchat said in the conference call today. The agency is especially concerned that the new flu, already a risk of causing sickness and death worldwide, may mutate in human or pig populations, she said.

‘Mixing Vessel’

Pigs are an ideal breeding ground for new forms of the flu, including the new H1N1 virus, Nancy Cox, chief of the flu division at the CDC’s Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, said at the briefing. The running hypothesis among scientists has been that the new flu -- a combination of four strains from swine, birds and humans -- started inside a pig, she said.

The infected pigs in Canada are recovering and there’s no need to cull herds worldwide, said Peter Ben Embarek, a food safety science with the WHO, which is based in Geneva, on a conference call today.

Pigs serve as a “wonderful mixing vessel” for bird, human and swine viruses, Cox of the CDC said.

“If pigs are infected with this new virus, and some of the swine influenza viruses that are already circulating, there could be additional reassortments of them,” she said. “Likewise if a human were co-infected with one of the seasonal influenza viruses, and this new H1N1 virus, we could have a virus reassortment which emerged that has slightly different properties than either of the two parental viruses.”

Reassortment “is of major concern” in the new virus, Schuchat said. Even if symptoms remain mild, the ease with which the illness can spread among a world population with little natural immunity still makes it a threat, she said.

Flu Toll

The U.S. yesterday reported 226 cases in 30 states, with one death, a 22-month-old child who had traveled from Mexico and died April 27 at a Houston hospital. The number of people with flu in the U.S. is increasing at a time when the typical season would be reaching its end, Schuchat said.

Data so far suggest that the virus is striking younger patients than is typical for influenza, and younger patients than usual are entering hospitals, Schuchat said. There are “very few” patients with swine flu over the age of 50, and the median age is 17. It’s possible that the elderly have greater immunity toward the disease, Schuchat said.

“I do expect more cases, more severe cases, and I do expect more deaths,” Schuchat said. “We are planning to remain aggressive with this new virus. I’m particularly concerned about what will happen in the fall,” beginning in late September, when flu season starts for the Northern Hemisphere, Schuchat said.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” she said.


Thanks for the post, Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

The percentage of Americans infected with Swine Flu = 0.000001% The death toll has now risen to a total of ONE. ONE

Add to that Global Warming deaths, deaths from nuclear power plant water run off, government conspiracies and plane crashes and wow- its up there!

Perhaps the thing to be afraid of here is the fear of one's own mortality. Something is going to get you and it won't be some gov't manufacured germ warfare tactic. Work through your fear in a more positive way.

Anonymous said...

"In 1983, a meeting of gay leaders and bathhouse owners came to no resolution, indicating there was a mere one in 3,127,443 chance of contracting AIDS in bathhouses."
- in AIDS, Health and Mental Health: A Primary Sourcebook. Landau-Stanton and Clements.

In January of 1986, the first anti-retroviral drug for AIDS was approved by the FDA. Tens of thousands would die by the end of the decade. Hundreds of thousands have died since.

Why listen to epidemiologists?

We're all gonna die. Why take needless risks or expose others needlessly?

Anonymous said...

HIV-AIDS vs a new strain of a flu virus?? LMAO!!!

Newsflash! The WHO thinks the flu may not be as bad as they've predicted...just like the recession you panicked about here people! Remember your panicky comparisons to the Great Depresstion?
Some internet posters need to get out more!

Karen said...

WHO uncertain about declaring flu pandemic
2009.05.05 02:58:11 Worldwide

The World Health Organization is keeping a close eye on the spread of the H1N1 virus outside North America as it tries to decide whether to declare a pandemic, a top official said on Monday. Keiji Fukuda, WHO acting assistant director-general, said most of the people infected in Europe and Asia to date had been to Mexico, the outbreak epicenter, and had not caught the virus from the community-at-large.

It remains unclear when, or whether, the United Nations agency will raise its pandemic alert to the top of its 6-point scale and activate emergency response plans to fight the virus known popularly as "swine flu." "We continue to see a number of infections related to travel in a number of different countries," Fukuda told journalists in Geneva, where the WHO is headquartered. "We are not certain when we will go to Phase 6." He stressed a designation of a full pandemic would not mean the WHO expected widespread death or severe illness from the strain. The main concern, he said, is whether the disease takes hold in countries around the world and could emerge in a mutated or more dangerous form with time. Its spread to countries in the southern hemisphere, like New Zealand, that are entering the winter season when flu tends to be most acute is a particular worry, according to Fukuda. He emphasized that although Mexican authorities have said the flu outbreak there has passed its peak, the world should not drop its guard and stop monitoring the new disease. "It is not that surveillance has to be strong just in the southern hemisphere. It has to be strong everywhere. Right now we really just don't know how this will go," Fukuda said.

Raised level

The WHO has confirmed 1,025 infections, including 26 deaths, in 20 countries around the world. Many people have experienced only mild symptoms from the flu and recovered fully without medicines. Earlier on Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that WHO chief Margaret Chan had told him "that if the situation remains as it is, WHO has no plan to raise the alert level to 6 at this moment." Last week the WHO raised its pandemic alert level from 3 to 4 to 5 in recognition of the transmission of the virus in Mexico and among communities in the United States and Canada. Phase 5 signals that a pandemic is "imminent." Asked about the reported spread of H1N1 from a farm worker to a herd of swine in western Canada, Fukuda warned against putting too much emphasis on the animal outbreak. He said human-to-human spread of the virus remained the bigger concern. "Influenza is a virus that commonly infects pigs," he said. "I don't know of any further outbreaks occurring in pigs at this time."

Original source

Posted:2009-05-05 02:59:27 [UTC]

Anonymous said...

I think they need to stop all flights into and out of Mexico, shut the border down, and use deadly force on anyone illegally jumping the border from Mexico. This might help to stop the flu from spreading across the border. We then need to isolate any person already in the U.S. who has the flu to help stop the pandemic.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 1:12

Thank made my point more clearly than I ever could have.

Since the H1N1 was found in several countries around the globe, I recommend we stop all air travel to all of those places immediately. We need to use the Patriot Act to obtain medical records of all those diagnosed with H1N1 and court order them to stay at home.

Then what should we do? *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Anon 5/2 @12:49

True, but also remember that the flu didn't really cause monumental amounts of death until after 6 months of first reports. If one person transmits it to two, and those two to four more - it ain't gonna take long for a few million to die.