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US Declares Public Health Emergency Over Swine Flu 695

Posted by kdawson
from the man-bird-pig dept.
mallumax sends word from the NYTimes that US government officials today declared a public health emergency over increasing cases of the swine flu first seen in Mexico. Here is additional coverage from CNN. From the Times: "American health officials [say]... that they had confirmed 20 cases of the disease in the United States and expected to see more as investigators fan out to track down the path of the outbreak. Other governments around the world stepped up their response to the incipient outbreak, racing to contain the infection amid reports of potential new cases from New Zealand to Hong Kong to Spain, raising concerns about the potential for a global pandemic. The cases in US looked to be similar to the deadly strain of swine flu that has killed more than 80 people in Mexico and infected 1,300 more." Reader "The man who walks in the woods" sends a link to accounts emailed to the BBC from readers in Mexico. While these are anecdotal, they do paint a picture of a more serious situation than government announcements have indicated so far.
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US Declares Public Health Emergency Over Swine Flu

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  • God damn... (Score:5, Funny)

    by denzacar (181829) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @04:07PM (#27723213) Journal

    ...Mexican swines!

  • Wonderful (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 26, 2009 @04:07PM (#27723219)

    I can't wait till someone comes in my pharmacy and coughs this all over me. /pharmacist

  • by dogmatixpsych (786818) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @04:07PM (#27723227) Homepage Journal
    It would be easy to think that the government is just over-reacting to this swine flu, and they might be (that was my first impression), but it is better to over-react than to under-react and end up with a huge world-wide influenza epidemic such as occurred in 1918. Making the public slightly paranoid can help prevent the spread of the flu.
    • Actually... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by denzacar (181829)

      Making the public slightly paranoid can help prevent the spread of the flu.

      You would get your resources wasted and your hospitals swarmed with everyone who feels a bit tired or has a cough.
      And there is no better place to catch a disease than a crowded hospital.
      Well... except maybe going for a swim in the local sewer.

      From the TFA:

      Officials said they had confirmed eight cases in New York, seven in California, two in Kansas, two in Texas and one in Ohio, and that the cases looked to be similar to the deadly strain of swine flu that has killed more than 80 people in Mexico and infected 1,300 more.

      So far, there have been no deaths from swine flu in the United States, and only one of the people who tested positive for the disease has been hospitalized, officials said.

      19 people out of 306 million found to have something like the disease that has killed 80 in Mexico.
      1 of those 19 was actually kept in the hospital while others were sent home.

      Also...

      In the United States, the C.D.C. confirmed that eight students of a high school in Queens had been infected with swine flu, the first confirmed cases in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference on Sunday. Mr. Bloomberg said that all of the cases had been mild and hospitals in the city had not seen more patients with severe lung infections.
      .
      .
      About 100 students at St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows, Queens, became sick in the last few days, and some family members have also taken ill. Mr. Bloomberg said the school would be closed on Monday, and that officials would then reassess whether to reopen the school.

      Yes... those 8 cases are all from that school.
      Note the numbers.
      8 people ac

  • by ingo23 (848315) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @04:10PM (#27723255)
    First it was bird flu, now it's swine flu.

    What's next - flying pig flu?

    • Re:What's next? (Score:5, Informative)

      by gordguide (307383) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @04:46PM (#27723551)

      Chickens, Pigs, and Humans. In some parts of the world, they are in close proximity to each other.
      The influenza variants that can attack either of these three animals are very similar to each other, but not identical.
      So, normally a bird flu only affects birds, for example.
      However, flu viruses are extremely mutagenic, and in reality mutate constantly.
      A problem with flu vaccines is they must be made from a strain that exists in early summer (to have time to make enough) but there is a strong chance that the virus will have mutated enough by the winter that the vaccine is not as effective, or has no effectiveness.
      Every once in a while, because of the similarity, a mutation will happen that allows that particular strain to cross a barrier; a bird flu might mutate into one that can infect pigs, for example.
      Or a swine flu may mutate to one that can infect humans. Since it is a new strain, no-one has antibodies to fight it.
      The 1918/1919 strain killed between 2 and 20% of those infected. A normal flu fatality rate is about 0.1%.
      Similarly, the 1918/1919 strain tended to fell healthy adults under 65 with a majority between 20 and 40, and not those under 2 or over 70 who comprise the majority of more ordinary strains' fatal victims. It is this tendency that is most alarming with the current outbreak.
      A mutation of the 1918/1919 variant is called "swine flu" and is common in pigs today. That particular strain cannot infect humans. It was previously believed that the 1918/1919 strain was originally a swine flu, but recent research suggests it mutated from a bird flu. No one really knows for sure, however.
      The country that best handled the risk in 1918/1919 was Japan, who issued strict travel limits, and had a mortality rate of just over twice the normal at 0.425%. Island nations who did not do so suffered fatality rates of 5% and more.

    • by Auraiken (862386) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:15PM (#27723755)

      Probably Kung-flu.

      Thanks, I'll be here all week, DON'T try the pork!

  • by volxdragon (1297215) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @04:14PM (#27723281)

    Why is it that every time I hear "swine flu", I think this is nothing more than a really old rerun of the muppet show....maybe Gonzo will show up and save us all!

  • OVER 60 MILLION GOT SERVED, Mexico, Friday (NNN) — A new strain of swine flu, H1N1, has killed up to 60 people in Mexico.

    The virus is a mixture of swine, bird, human and computer viruses [today.com]. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, lack of appetite, popup ads, coughing, sore throat, a slow connection and an urge to throw one's computer out of a high window. The disease is thought to have started as a Windows virus on 4chan, a CIA entrapment message board for online activists, and can spread using the current Windows 7 beta.

    Center for Disease Control officials looked at their huge stockpiles of H5N1 bird flu vaccine and said, "... shit."

    Citizens have panicked at the prospect of bacon being put into quarantine and substituted with some soy-based shit. "Damn that Conficker!" shouted R. MacDonald of San Bernardino, California. "Damn it all to Hell!"

    "This comment from me looks photoshopped," said Bruce Schneier, an American computer security expert safely employed over in the UK. "I can tell by the pixels and having seen a lot of shops in my time. I suspect this is the work of a viral botnet spider agent replicating Trojan comments across news services until their functionality is completely destroyed. WHATEVER YOU, DO DON'T LOAD OR READ MY COMMENT. p.s.: I love you."

    Insufferably smug Macintosh user Arty Phagge was sanguine. "We know how to use condoms. And I'm a vegetarian." The Free Software Foundation announced the launch of OpenSwine, a disease generation and detection kit available for all to use and develop in perpetuity.

    Britain will be protected from the swine flu virus by comprehensive filtering of the British internet, shutting it down entirely as needed. "Would you want your husbands, your servants, accessing the Internet?" asked Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. "I put it to you that you would not."

  • by Tihstae (86842) <Tihstae@gmail.com> on Sunday April 26, 2009 @04:19PM (#27723335) Homepage

    It has arrived. Evil people start moving toward Vegas. Good people will be found in Colorado.

    Who has been talking to you? The Old Lady or the Walking Man?

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @04:20PM (#27723337) Journal
    Interestingly, it appears to be expressing more of the Avian flu, than the swine. In particular, all the deaths as of yesterday eve where ppl in 20-40 range. ONLY Avian had that characteristic. What has been interesting is the number of posts here in America that say that we should shut down all traffic to Mexico on south. Of course, many of these posts mention illegal aliens. Now, the question is, how many other nations are going to say that they want to shut down all traffic between all nations in the (north|central|south) Americas and themselves?
  • Souvenir (Score:4, Funny)

    by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @04:20PM (#27723341) Homepage

    And there I was wondering what to bring back from the US as a souvenir when I go there next week...

  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Sunday April 26, 2009 @04:35PM (#27723455) Homepage Journal

    Mexico hovers on martial law and the US declares emergency. Government responses will be increasingly strong before they admit the truth of the zombie uprising.

    Swine flu, my butt. It's the Solanum virus and we won't know until it's too late to contain.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mike260 (224212)

      Things are falling apart pretty rapidly here in Arnette TX. Yesterday in the supermarket there were two guys fighting over the last can of tinned pineapple. They started shoving, then one smashed the other in the face with the tin, grabbed his basket and left him on the floor clutching his bloody face.

      The national guard finally arrived this morning, but they seem more interested in keeping control of the food than in protecting anyone from the rioters.

      I've got that old saying stuck in my head, the one about

  • by Animaether (411575) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @04:38PM (#27723485) Journal

    Just to note... declaring a 'Public Health Emergency' sounds all kinds of doom&gloom-y, but doing so simply enables measures to be taken more quickly, more easily, etc.

    "We are declaring today a public health emergency," Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said today at a White House news briefing. That declaration is "standard operating procedure," Napolitano said. "It is similar to what we do when we see a hurricane approaching a site. The hurricane might not actually hit but allows you to take a number of preparatory steps. We really don't know ultimately what the size or seriousness of this outbreak is going to be." - webmd.com

    It's when the CDC starts issuing emergencies, quarantining local communities, ordering a halt to any and all traffic into / out of certain areas, etc. that you should start raising eyebrows.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 26, 2009 @04:39PM (#27723491)

    Here's a question for somebody who knows the immune system:

    Apparently this flu is so deadly because the immune system overreacts (cytokine storm) and destroys more than just the virus. Would intentionally weakening the immune system then increase ones chances of surviving? From what I've read, it seems both sugar and alcohol would have an immediate weakening effect on the immune system. So to increase the chance of survival if infected: lots of sugar and alcohol?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 26, 2009 @09:00PM (#27725283)
      The answer is both "yes" and "no", and for odd reasons.

      Cytokines are signaling proteins. They're used by cells to tell the body that the cells in the area are inflamed, which causes the immune system to react in those areas. In a cytokine storm, the immune system scrams and releases proteins to counter the feedback, but overcompensates, causing the cells to release more. The levels eventually reach critical mass, to the point that it disrupts many other cellular activities, which eventually leads to death.

      In individuals who are immunocompromised, a cytokine storm can still happen, and it is more often lethal. Instead of the storm being a positive feedback loop, it's just a feedforward system; the body just produces so many cytokines that it disrupts ordinary function, and the immune system is not able to overcome the level of cytokines to stop the cascade.

      However, there are drugs that exist that directly effect the creation and level of cytokines in the system, which is where intentionally weakening the immune system will help. Many drugs that work to prevent damage done by chronic inflammation will help, e.g. steroids, ACE inhibitors and anti-TNF-α drugs. [Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha is a cytokine]. Given along with influenza viral inhibitors (oseltamivir, zanamivir), these drugs should reduce mortality rates.

      Sometime in the (Star Trek) future, we will find out which proteins are part of these Flu viruses are causing this cytokine action, and we can target it directly to stop a cytokine storm in flu cases. We already have leads on some of them, including genes PA, PB1 & PB2 in relation to nucleoproteins found in some flu viruses, including the Spanish Flu. Drugs like it may eventually become so common place to where it will be used to reduce the symptoms of the common flu in moderate to severe cases.
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @04:58PM (#27723633) Homepage Journal

    Its not 2012...

  • recall that the spanish flu of 1918 came out in the summer, and was mild

    http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/health-and-human-body/human-diseases/next-killer-flu.html [nationalgeographic.com]

    In 1918, the final year of the savage trench fighting of World War I, something else began felling the soldiers. No one knows for sure when or where the Spanish flu emerged, though it certainly wasn't in Spain. As a neutral country, Spain had no wartime censorship, and the flu apparently got its false pedigree from news reports about outbreaks there in May 1918. In fact the disease was already spreading on both sides of the European front, laying low entire divisions through the spring and early summer. Then it seemed to subside.

    In late summer, though, the Spanish flu returned, and this time its virulence was unmistakable. The sick took to their beds with fever, piercing headache, and joint pain. Many were young adults, exactly the group that normally shrugs off the flu. About 5 percent of the victims died, some in just two or three days, their faces turning a ghastly purple as they essentially suffocated to death. Doctors who opened the chests of the dead were horrified: The lungs, normally light and elastic, were as heavy as waterlogged sponges, clogged with bloody fluid.

    then the cold weather came, and it came down like a scythe. we will experience media hype for a month or two, the swine flu will be forgotten, then it will suddenly resurge like crazy in october. the reason is the flu virus actually survives better in the cold air than the warm air, and travels greater distances. the warm summer air will help us fight the flu, for now. there was science a few months ago that proved that:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7276447.stm [bbc.co.uk]

    The virus's outer membrane is composed chiefly of molecules known as lipids, such as oils, fats and cholesterol.

    The researchers found that at temperatures slightly above freezing, this lipid covering solidified into a gel.

    However, as temperatures approached 15.6C (60F) , the covering gradually thawed, eventually melting to a soupy mix.

    The researchers concluded that temperatures in the spring and summer were too high to allow the viral membrane to enter its gel state.

    As a result, at these temperatures the individual flu viruses would dry out and weaken - accounting for the end of the flu season.

    thats why flu is always a cold month thing

    so the thing to do is not worry now, worry later. the warm weather will mitigate the flu. then we should all keep a very wary eye come october, that's when the swine flu will prove if it is a superkiller or not

    one more concern:

    the cytokine storm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cytokine_storm [wikipedia.org]

    this explains why those who died of the spanish flu, and are dying of swine flu now, are young, healthy adults. perversely, the healthier you are, the more you will be prone to die of the swine flu: your body overreacts, like anaphylactic shock. less healthy immune systems mean you underreact, and your lungs aren't flooded to death by your won body. the very young, and the very old, they should be able to weather the swine flu. the worst case scenario (hopefully this just fizzles out like SARS), it is us in the prime of life, 25-45, who will bear the brunt of mortality when everyone gets it this fall, hospitals are swamped, and the tamiflu runs out. then you have children and elderly with no breadwinners to take care of them

    prepare now, you have until fall until the scythe comes (hopefully, it won't, it could still fizzle out)

  • by IonOtter (629215) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:21PM (#27723793) Homepage

    Checking Slashdot and finding this article at the top?

    Right next to the poll, "How long do you expect to live?"

  • by W.Mandamus (536033) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:51PM (#27723993)
    Sorry to point out the obvious here but Mexico City is located more then a mile above sea level (higher elevation then Denver). Could environmental factors be the reason that people are dying of respritory complications in Mexico but, so far, this doesn't seem worse then other flu outbreaks. And keep in mind folks, in a normal flu season around 30,000 people (out of a population of 340,000,000) die of the flu in the US.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by John Hasler (414242)

      > Sorry to point out the obvious here but Mexico City is located more then a mile above
      > sea level (higher elevation then Denver). Could environmental factors be the reason that
      > people are dying of respritory complications in Mexico

      Do cities at high elevations normally see a much higher than average death rate from influenza?

  • by benjamindees (441808) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:59PM (#27724079) Homepage

    As a doctor, I realise that the media does not report the truth. Authorities distributed vaccines among all the medical personnel with no results, because two of my partners who worked in this hospital (interns) were killed by this new virus in less than six days even though they were vaccinated as all of us were.

    I'm a specialist doctor in respiratory diseases and intensive care at the Mexican National Institute of Health. Staff are starting to leave and many are opting to retire or apply for holidays. It is killing three to four patients daily, and it has been going on for more than three weeks.

    I am a doctor and I work in the State of Mexico. We doctors knew this was happening a week before the alert was issued and were told to get vaccinated.

    In the capital of my state, Oaxaca, there is a hospital closed because of a death related to the porcine influenza. Many friends working in hospitals or related fields say that the situation is really bad, they are talking about 19 people dead in Oaxaca, including a doctor and a nurse. They say they got shots but they were told not to talk about the real situation.

    Two of my friends at work are sick, they were sick for a couple of days, they went to the hospital and they sent them back to work. The doctor told them it was just a flu until Friday when the alarm was spread, then they were allowed to go home. I work in a call centre and I'm worried because there are no windows in the building so it cannot be ventilated and around 400 people work there. We all have talked to our supervisor but no one has done anything not even sterilise or disinfect the area. We will be sick soon and, well, do the math - 400 can infect at least another two per day.

  • by Parallax48 (990689) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @07:47PM (#27724823) Homepage
    See the CDC page (copied below): http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/swineflu_you.htm [cdc.gov] For up to the minute data:
    http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/whatsnew.htm?s_cid=tw_epr_68 [cdc.gov] http://twitter.com/CDCemergency [twitter.com]
    CDC page pasted into comment:
    What is swine flu?
    Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen. Swine flu viruses have been reported to spread from person-to-person, but in the past, this transmission was limited and not sustained beyond three people.

    Are there human infections with swine flu in the U.S.?
    In late March and early April 2009, cases of human infection with swine influenza A (H1N1) viruses were first reported in Southern California and near San Antonio, Texas. Other U.S. states have reported cases of swine flu infection in humans and cases have been reported internationally as well. An updated case count of confirmed swine flu infections in the United States is kept at http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/investigation.htm [cdc.gov]CDC and local and state health agencies are working together to investigate this situation.

    Is this swine flu virus contagious?
    CDC has determined that this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it not known how easily the virus spreads between people.

    What are the signs and symptoms of swine flu in people?
    The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. In the past, severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.

    How does swine flu spread?
    Spread of this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

    How can someone with the flu infect someone else?
    Infected people may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 7 or more days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

    What should I do to keep from getting the flu?
    First and most important: wash your hands. Try to stay in good general health. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food. Try not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

    Are there medicines to treat swine flu?
    Yes. CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with these swine influenza viruses. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaler) that fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within 2 days of symptoms).

    How long can an infected person spread swine

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