Okay, fresh from The Market Ticker this morning I found this little gem of information about the H1N1 flu virus (click on the H1N1 link to read the full blog post). I know, lots of people seem tired of hearing about this and think it is just another "no big deal" flu bug.
But not so fast. We know that this virus is different from our "usual" flu viruses because it seems to prefer warm temperatures. That's why we're still seeing increasing numbers of infection of this virus in the U.S. even though it is summer.
I do have to say here that I'm very disappointed in the way the CDC is posting statistics on this virus - they are woefully behind and it has been stated publicly on many forums that most states are hardly doing any testing at all for this virus except on the most severe, hospitalized cases. So the numbers could be much higher and we just don't know it.
There are reports now coming out from Shanghai that the virus has mutated there and has now also picked up a viral sequence (E627K) that makes it also well-suited for cold climates - which has scientists now a bit worried about how this virus will hit those in the Northern Hemisphere this fall/winter. If the virus mutates enough, those who might have gotten it here in the U.S. this spring/summer could get the "new" version of it again this fall/winter.
Also, this particular flu strain is hitting those in the age range of 30-50 years old particularly hard. It is causing something called a cytokine storm in some of these individuals that are otherwise normal and healthy - basically their immune system ends up working too well when attacking this bug causing a fatal reaction.
Scientists are closely watching the development and evolution of this virus in the Southern Hemisphere that is now experiencing their normal winter cold/flu season. They hope to glean some information from the behavior of the virus that might let us have a peek into what to expect in our hemisphere this fall.
Their thoughts on what the virus will be like this fall are not optimistic. Taken from the Utah Public Health Situation Report Dated 24 Jun 2009:
CDC is now estimating that the novel H1N1 virus will be “Category 2” in severity. They are closely watching the situation in the Southern Hemisphere for validation of this estimate.All this to say, continue to pay attention to this virus and how it is behaving. I recently found a whole forum board dedicated to international discussion and information sharing on H1N1 - you can go here: Pandemic Flu Information Forum.
A category 2 pandemic has the following characteristics:
~Case fatality ratio of 0.1 percent to less than 0.5 percent.
~Between 90,000 and 450,000 deaths in the U.S. (compared with estimated 36,000 deaths during a typical influenza season).
~Excess death rate of between 30 to less than 150 per 100,000 people.
~Illness rate of between 20 and 40 percent.
~Similar to 1957 pandemic.
If you don't already have a plan of action for your family for this fall in case this virus turns very ugly, you should. You should be prepared to "self-quarantine" if needed and stay put in your home for at least 2 weeks to 30 days, possibly longer, because of waves of infection.
Start thinking now about the items you would need to have on hand to do that. Make your lists and start gradually making your purchases now, so it is not such a big hit on your budget all at one time. I'll post soon on what we think some of the essential items are to have on hand and what we've done to prepare for just such a possibility.
Feel free to share any first-hand experiences you've had with this virus, or preparations you've taken for your family.