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Medicine United States

New Flu Strain Appears In the US and Mexico 315

Posted by Soulskill
from the fluent-in-english-and-spanish dept.
Combat Wombat writes with this excerpt from Reuters: "A strain of flu never seen before has killed up to 60 people in Mexico and also appeared in the United States, where eight people were infected but recovered, health officials said on Friday. Mexico's government said at least 20 people have died of the flu and it may also be responsible for 40 other deaths. [The government] shut down schools and canceled major public events in Mexico City to try to prevent more deaths in the sprawling, overcrowded capital. ... Close analysis showed the disease is a mixture of swine, human and avian viruses, according to the CDC. Humans can occasionally catch swine flu from pigs but rarely have they been known to pass it on to other people. Mexico reported 1,004 suspected cases of the new virus, including four possible cases in Mexicali on the border with California.
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New Flu Strain Appears In the US and Mexico

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  • Delayed (Score:5, Funny)

    by chaynlynk (1523701) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:26PM (#27714133)
    Wow, with news at this pace, we would find out about the end of the world a week after!
  • Flu in Queens (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chink Admin (1249608) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:28PM (#27714157)
    The flu has (very likely) already hit Queens, NY. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/25/nyregion/25sick.html?_r=1&hp [nytimes.com]
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 25, 2009 @02:45PM (#27715461)

      I would guess that if a serious flu comes through, you will not be able to avoid it.

      However, if I understand correctly, flu typically kills by filling the lungs up with mucus, and preventing breathing -- a fatal pneumonia, if you will. However, such a symptom is entirely (and easily) treatable. The treatment is called PP &D, and it takes about 20 minutes to drain the lungs. In other words, in the time it would take the ambulance to get you and get you to the hospital, you could be in good enough condition to walk out the door.

      I've done this on my kid, and it does greatly improve breathing function.

      Therefore, my advice would be to simply be prepared to do PP & D on others, the price being that they learn to do it, and do PP & D on still others in a 2:1 ratio until the need is gone. That way, if you do get sick, you will have someone to do it on you, and the flu wonâ(TM)t be fatal.

      Here are two good sources on how to to PP&D.
      http://www.phoenixchildrens.com/emily-center/child-health-topics/handouts/CPT-55b.pdf

      http://www.questdiagnostics.com/kbase/as/ug1720/how.htm

      • Speaking from my nursing background here (20+ years as Registered Nurse in Intensive Care, Emergency Room, and medical wards).

        Postural drainage and percussion (PD&P) are appropriate when the "fluid in the lungs" is in the bronchial tree, as in cystic fibrosis and some kinds of bronchitis. It will do no good in pneumonia and may cause greater harm.

        In pneumonia the dangerous fluid is not within the lumens of the bronchial tree where it could be coughed out; it is the walls of the tree that are swollen with excess interstitial fluid that is the danger. The swelling increases the distance between the air sacs and blood vessels, and as it progresses, it collapses the air sacs. So you don't have gobs of stuff blocking the lungs; you've got less working lung area.

        If you start to come down with the flu a good plan would be to avoid exercise or any activity that would increase your O2 demand and your CO2 production. Spend your awake time mostly sitting, and rest in a semi-recumbent position rather than flat in bed. Do deep breathing exercises every half hour or so to help keep airways open. Go with sedentary activities like reading, watching tv, working on improving your slashdot karma, and so on. And remember that the hardware of your mind is now compromised by the illness, so you are not as sharp as usual, your judgment may be bad, and there are going to be more bugs in your code and logic.

  • by gcnaddict (841664) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:30PM (#27714169)
    The reason why this strain is so bad is because it's transmissible from person to person with ease.

    On the plus side, it's not resistant to Tamiflu... yet. Given that strains of Tamiflu-resistant human flu are turning up, I wouldn't be surprised to see this one learn to dodge bullets as well.

    That's why this strain is seen as a potential pandemic.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 25, 2009 @01:27PM (#27714753)

      [...] I wouldn't be surprised to see this one learn to dodge bullets as well.

      I'm afraid that once it has evolved this far, it won't have to.

    • Young Adults (Score:5, Interesting)

      by copponex (13876) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @01:50PM (#27714963) Homepage

      I thought the reason it was so bad is because many of the dead are young adults. That's one of the milestones of a really dangerous pandemic, right?

      • by MoonBuggy (611105)

        So how does it compare to Avian Flu, or SARS, or whatever the health scare before that was?

        I'm sure it's a good thing for them to be cautious, but honestly I have to admit to seeing the whole thing as a bit of a 'boy who cried wolf' scenario. I certainly don't know how I'd tell if this were something that really caused any more threat than the non-events that have preceded it.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by pete-wilko (628329)
          Unfortunately the difference this time is human to human transmission, which was very limited with the previous examples. The larger question is how much of a mutation has occurred and therefore how potentially dangerous it is.

          Also need to determine how far it has actually spread to get an indication of actually how dangerous it may or may not be - i.e. there's around 8 deaths out of 1004 cases, but if it turns out there's another 1000 unreported cases with no fatalities then it may not be that bad.
      • by adamchou (993073)

        That's one of the milestones of a really dangerous pandemic

        I'm no infectious disease specialist but after reading the article on the Spanish Flu [wikipedia.org], I don't believe that death of young people is a milestone for a pandemic. Its more a milestone for an extremely deadly virus because thats a sign that its able to subvert or reverse a strong immune system. A pandemic, by definition, is just an infection disease that has a widespread number of cases. It doesn't require the disease to be deadly.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I thought the reason it was so bad is because many of the dead are coming back to life. That's one of the milestones of a really dangerous pandemic, right?

        Fixed that for you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Repossessed (1117929)

        Not always, but in flu the deadly strains (at least, Spanish flu and the strain everyone was afraid would shift to humans) cause an overreaction by the immune system. Young adults, whose immune systems are in top shape, get screwed up bad.

    • Gee, this sounds awfully familiar, kinda like what happened several months ago involving Baxter International [cryptogon.com], the pharmaceutical corp which manufactures avian flue vaccine but isn't having much luck in marketing it.

      Baxter nearby when this took place, me wonders????

    • danmaku da!

  • Before this spreads unnecessarily, this would be an ideal time to limit air flight in and out of the Americas.

    We as a species are putting everyone at risk by allowing unlimited, unrestricted, near-instantaneous travel from point to point on the globe.

    Shipping cargo can continue of course; if the crew get sick en route, they can always be quarantined off the coast of wherever they arrive.

    • Goddamnit, Madagascar has already shut it's borders.

    • WTF 'near-instantaneous'? You must have never flown on anything but private learjets.

      • by Schemat1c (464768)

        WTF 'near-instantaneous'? You must have never flown on anything but private learjets.

        Horses,ships = months. Cars = days. Planes = hours.

        Get it now?

      • by Kagura (843695)

        WTF 'near-instantaneous'? You must have never flown on anything but private learjets.

        You must have never taken a boat [youtube.com] anywhere.

      • You know, it was calculated that the Black Death was able to spread throughout Europe with the speed of up to 10 km/day (about 700 furlongs per fortnight, in imperial units). This is pretty fast when you consider that it is still believed that Black Death was carried by mice and fleas. Now imagine a disease carrier boarding a Jumbo in Tokyo heading for New York...
    • Most flus are carried around the globe by migrating birds, especially in the days before international trade and travel.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      On the long run it makes us more resistant to disease. That used to be a good thing.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        On [sic] the long run it makes us more resistant to disease.

        Yes, on the species level we will all benefit. Unfortunately for you, depending on your particular genome and how it's currently being expressed, you might be personally in for a little bit of trouble, which is why some people prefer to worry (or panic).

      • by RightSaidFred99 (874576) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @05:35PM (#27716699)
        Retarded point. In the long run it makes us more resistant to _this_ disease. So say 3 million people die from it, then never die from it again. Whoohoo! What a net win for the species! Oh, wait, until the next one that's slightly different.
    • by Toonol (1057698)
      Temporarily putting people at risk; in the long run, it's building a more resistant species.
    • I find your post quite chilling.

      Before this spreads unnecessarily, this would be an ideal time to limit air flight in and out of the Americas.

      How would you feel about re-phrasing this in the active voice? Who should limit air flight?

      We as a species are putting everyone at risk by allowing unlimited, unrestricted, near-instantaneous travel from point to point on the globe.

      Allowing? I was born a free man. I require, and ask for, no one's sufferance to travel as I please.

      A nation may refuse me admittance, b

      • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @01:54PM (#27715007)

        As a citizen of Colorado I have the right to travel freely in all of the United States with no permission, whatever.

        Unless the authorities institute a general quarantine. In which case your libertarian ass will be staying put.

      • by a whoabot (706122)

        Before this spreads unnecessarily, this would be an ideal time to limit air flight in and out of the Americas.

        How would you feel about re-phrasing this in the active voice? Who should limit air flight?"

        I'm no grammarian, but as far as I can tell, all three verbs in that sentence are in the active voice. I think you've just jumbled the terms: You said "active voice" when you meant "personal". Your point is well taken by me, I just thought I'd point that out. I've continued typing because it's a rainy Saturday afternoon.

        spreads = active indicative
        would be = active subjunctive
        to limit = active infinitive

        There is no (widely used at least)* passive form of "to be", but if you wanted to convert the sentence

    • goodluckwiththat. No one "allows" me to travel. Countries allow me within their borders, but my right to travel is my own and is not allowed by anybody.
    • by Weedhopper (168515) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @01:41PM (#27714903)

      /sigh. I was hoping to be able to stick with Mac virus jokes but....

      No.

      At this point in the epidemic cycle, that would be a premature panic reaction. Panic always and inevitably causes more harm than good.

      There's a number of factors that influence decision making to limit the spread of any disease. Variables that need to be filled in before far reaching decisions are made include the transmissability and virulence of this particular strain. In other words, things that not yet been established include the number people exposed, the number of people who were exposed who developed symptoms, the number of people who developed symptons that were severe enough to seek medical attention and the number of those who died.

      Some of those, you can make a guess at but you won't know with any reasonable degree of certainty for a while. Meanwhile, the public health system is keeping an eye out for new cases. Between the two, you continue to develop your model, which helps you determine just what the potential is.

      Now, to grossly oversimplify and at the risk of sounding a little callous here, seriously sick people will show up at the hospital, clinic, etc. There's a number of reasons that they might not, but you can bet that if a young adult gets sick of the flu and dies, someone's going to hear about it. With low awareness, this is the group that you catch, which is not okay because there are transmissive people out there wandering around infecting other people.

      The other side of that spectrum is just as bad and in the professional opinion many, can be worse. The moment that the authoritative reaction is severe, such as shutting down transportation systems, the population panics. Suddenly, you have every person with a cough and a runny nose swamping the public health system. Add to the fact that it's now SPRING and the beginning of allergy season in the southern US, and you've just made the difficult job of outbreak investigation and outbreak control much more difficult by several orders of magnitude.

      The response has to be measured in a way to balance numerous factors so NO. Cancelling ar flights at this juncture would be an example of a supremely BAD idea.

      Now, the moment you KNOW that it's spreading faster than you have the capacity to contain and control, THEN you take the drastic step of public alerts limited quarantine. Before then, it's just irresponsible.

      • Now, the moment you KNOW that it's spreading faster than you have the capacity to contain and control, THEN you take the drastic step of public alerts limited quarantine. Before then, it's just irresponsible.

        http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSN25473389 [reuters.com]

        An unusual new flu virus has spread widely and cannot be contained, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed on Saturday.

        "It is clear that this is widespread. And that is why we have let you know that we cannot contain the spr

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Moridin42 (219670)

      Why stop there? Not that it would stop there. Maybe the politicians and airlines are better elsewhere in the world. (Actually.. Japan was quite nice all around. Little miffed to have my fingerprints taken on entry, but that was about my only complaint) But the US ones suck. They'll put on security theatre and overstep all bounds of reason and logic to put on the show. After all, any sick person is a potential threat to the rest of humanity. Let us all pass laws forcing airlines to perform in-depth health ch

  • finally! (Score:3, Funny)

    by ZosX (517789) <zosxavius@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:39PM (#27714261) Homepage

    news that will make people crap their pants!

  • by wintermute1974 (596184) <wintermute@berne-ai.org> on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:40PM (#27714267) Homepage

    New Scientist Magazine also has a good introductory article about it:
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17025-deadly-new-flu-virus-in-us-and-mexico-may-go-pandemic.html [newscientist.com]

    From the article:
    Flu viruses are named after the two main proteins on their surfaces, abbreviated H and N. They are also differentiated by what animal they usually infect. The H in the new virus comes from pigs, but some of its other genes come from bird and human flu viruses, a mixture that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls "very unusual".
    ====

    When people start making comments like this, I can't help wondering if this was someone's science project that got out into the open instead of a strain that occurred naturally.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      ...as this article learns us. [prweb.com]
      Makes you indeed wonder !
       
      Mental note: beware of Replikins bringing medicine to lethal flu.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by pmarini (989354)

      When people start making comments like this, I can't help wondering if this was someone's science project that got out into the open instead of a strain that occurred naturally.

      like in Twelve Monkeys? can we reverse the disaster à la I am a legend finale?

    • by khallow (566160) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @01:07PM (#27714547)
      The problem is that in the absence of more information it could go either way. Mexico City is a great place to infect, if one wants a disease to end up in the US. OTOH, this sort of mixing to my understanding occurs frequently in natural influenza. All it takes is one cell infected simultaneously by two variants of the flu. That in turn just requires one farm simultaneously infected by those two viruses. It sounds like they caught the virus early enough (and it is sufficiently non-lethal) so that they can trace where the disease originated.
      • by Mashiki (184564)

        Mexico City has direct flight lines to just about every major hub point in the world. It's already by and far too late to even worry about it, one of the immunologists here in Ontario has stated it's better to prepare believing it's already wild in the population.

        • You're inferring too much from what this immunologist said. It is wise to prepare, but that doesn't mean control mechanisms at the source will not be effective in limiting both the pace and geographical spread of the disease.

          If the immunologist said it was by and far too late to worry about it, he should be quiet and leave outbreak control to people who know what they're talking about.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Eudial (590661)

      Yeah, I was curious about that, too. I don't think it's intentional though. What speaks for a random event or a lab accident as opposed to some intentional act of bio-terrorism is the fact that it's survivable, and not resistant to drugs.

    • by bhima (46039) * <Bhima.Pandava@gma i l . com> on Saturday April 25, 2009 @01:27PM (#27714757) Journal

      If it really is a weaponized strain, it's an extraordinarily poor one. I've just finished listening to "The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague In History" by John M. Barry.

      The 1918 Influenza A strain was a subtype of avian strain H1N1, which spread & killed much faster.

      One would expect by now even the most incompetent biotechnologist with an eye towards weaponizing could at least match the 1918 strain.

      • Citizen bhima, I believe they [911blogger.com] already may have. So there may actually be "competent" biotechnologists [wiseupjournal.com] out there.....
      • by adamchou (993073)
        Unless the country weaponizing is wrapped in a giant bubble, i really doubt that anyone would ever want to weaponize any highly contagious and highly deadly bioweapon. I'm no military expert but i'm pretty certain highly deadly is the key characteristic of a desired bioweapon, not highly contagious.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hogwash McFly (678207)

      When people start making comments like this, I can't help wondering if this was someone's science project that got out into the open instead of a strain that occurred naturally.

      Yeah, that or an effort from Gilead Sciences to increase sales of Tamiflu.

    • by jmulvey (233344) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @06:14PM (#27716997)

      I think the chances of this being bio-terrorism just clicked up a notch: According to this article [bloomberg.com]:
      The first case was seen in Mexico on April 13. The outbreak coincided with the President Barack Obama's trip to Mexico City on April 16. Obama was received at Mexico's anthropology museum in Mexico City by Felipe Solis, a distinguished archeologist who died the following day from symptoms similar to flu, Reforma newspaper reported. The newspaper didn't confirm if Solis had swine flu or not.

  • And will people in Texas (*cough* Don McLeroy *cough*) believe it, or will they just come up with the usual "well its still a virus" meme.

  • by Weedhopper (168515) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @12:45PM (#27714327)

    I have a Macbook Pro. That means I'm immune, right?

  • Interesting that this pops up shortly after the release of this book [amazon.com].

  • Roche stock ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by foobsr (693224) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @01:05PM (#27714527) Homepage Journal
    ... on a low [morningstar.com]. Perhaps a good buy, as Tamiflu is said to help.

    Or should I say clever timing [yahoo.com]?

    CC.
  • Mmmmm... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hackus (159037)

    The chances of these proteins from bird, avian flu combining with a swine retro virus that is easily transmittable is astronomical.

    Unless of course, it really isn't about chance, and it was engineered that way. Taking the best from Avian flu, and Swine Flu and combining them into a easily transmittable vector for human consumption.

    I would bet for example it already has spread world wide.

    The higher its kill rate the more skeptical I will believe this is a natural borne virus which came about through natura

    • Re:Mmmmm... (Score:5, Informative)

      by John Hasler (414242) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @01:18PM (#27714657) Homepage

      > The chances of these proteins from bird, avian flu combining with a swine retro virus
      > that is easily transmittable is astronomical.

      Yes, it is fairly likely. Influenza viruses do this sort of thing all the time.

    • I was gonna respond to this but then I realized it was so wrong, that it has to be a clever troll.

    • Deus Ex was not a documentary. NATO forces will arrive soon to control the situation, not UN forces.

      --
      Toro

    • Re:Mmmmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Omestes (471991) <omestes @ g m a il.com> on Saturday April 25, 2009 @02:56PM (#27715565) Homepage Journal

      The chances of these proteins from bird, avian flu combining with a swine retro virus that is easily transmittable is astronomical.

      How many generations does a typical virus go through in a very short period of time? You forget that "evolutionary" time is vastly sped up for our bacterial and viral friends. In the amount of time it took me to type this paragraph these bugger probably went through a couple hundred generations, and spawned untold mutations. Thats why viruses are so hard to fight. This is especially true with influenza, which is why we don't have a "cure" for it yet.

      Sometimes viruses win the genetic lottery too, especially when they get to go through billions of iterations each year. The odds of HIV/AIDs jumping from primates to a human form was also astronomical, as was the original swine flu, but I doubt that anyone would posit those as cases of biological weapons gone wrong.

       

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by HiThere (15173)

        They're fast, but they aren't THAT fast. I think that 20 minutes is a fair guess at a generation time without any additional information. And they don't change environments with each generation. You'll bet multiple generations within a single cell.

        That said, you've got tremendous numbers of virus particles reproducing simultaneously in an extremely large number of places. So unlikely events ARE to be expected. Still, this seems a bit of an extreme example. As described it requires at least 5 cross-ove

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Reziac (43301) *

      No need for conspiracy theories. All you need is a culture where pigs and birds (notably ducks) are kept in close proximity. Pig coronavirus, when passed through a bird, often alters into a human-infective "flu" virus. Since there are hundreds of coronaviruses, and plenty of poor rural areas where pigs and fowl are kept together (notably China) the fact that we regularly get new flu variants is just mother nature being her bitchy self.

  • From a cursory look around the Internet today, there is a lot of advice on what kind of face mask to wear to help cut down on transmission. Apparently even simple surgical masks are good enough for the flu virus (although better version are also available).

    This post is more about eye protection: Next to the nose and mouth, your eyes are the next best method for transmission. Are thick, wrap-around glasses or goggles a good idea? I know that people in Japan with allergies have such equipment. Can anyone

  • by kandresen (712861) on Saturday April 25, 2009 @01:20PM (#27714685)

    For a few year ago it was a huge ethical question about growing human organs in pig for transplantation in case of accidents.
    The proponents focused upon the saving of lives in the moment
    The opposition focused upon the threats this could cause for the entire human race as viruses suddenly could pass the gap and flood us with waves of new diseases we have never known before.

    Not that I know if this is due to growing human organs inside porks, but expect many new deadly deceases such as this as animal grown parts turn up inside humans.

  • The news stories are saying there are suspected cases in California, Texas, New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County now.
    • There's been a lot more news on this since I started posting on this thread and if those cases in Kansas and New York are in fact the same strain as the one in Mexico, this one definitely has pandemic potential.

      The coming few days will tell. If a few confirmed cases were to be reported on another continent in the next 24 to 48 hours, it additional control and containment procedures might be in order.

  • Damnit, there goes my.... I mean my friends....vacation. Now what are we supposed to do?

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