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Medicine Earth Government News

WHO Declares H1N1's Spread Officially a Pandemic 368

juggledean writes "The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global flu pandemic after holding an emergency meeting, according to reports. It means the swine flu virus is spreading in at least two regions of the world with rising cases being seen in the UK, Australia, Japan and Chile." Whether it's called a pandemic or not, there's a hopeful note in the story about H1N1's spread: "...there were people who believed we might be in a kind of apocalyptic situation and what we're really seeing now with H1N1 is that in most cases the disease is self-limiting."
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WHO Declares H1N1's Spread Officially a Pandemic

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  • Re:"H1N1" (Score:5, Informative)

    by werfu ( 1487909 ) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @01:46PM (#28296811)
    Naming it Mexican flu wouldn't not be right, because, for now, the strain is not higly virulent and doesn't kill really much. The WHO as declared it pandemic, but it's more in a move to try to stop the viral spread and help reduce the chance of a mutation. If the virus mutate and mix with H5N1, then we could be in serious trouble. And even then, lets just hope it doesn't mix with something even more deadly.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11, 2009 @01:56PM (#28296995)


    Pandemics refer to a disease's spread, not its severity.

    The common cold is also a pandemic.

  • Re:"H1N1" (Score:1, Informative)

    by dk90406 ( 797452 ) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @01:57PM (#28297003)
    The full name is "Infuenza A H1N1" which is specific (and boring). You are right about H1N1 being a being generic for the proteins in the family Influenza A H1N1 belongs to.
  • Weakens Pandemic (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ohio Calvinist ( 895750 ) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @02:05PM (#28297161)
    I think this completely diminishes the "severity" of a pandemic.

    In the technical sense it is a disease that is widespread and uncontained; but if this is the benchmark then the common cold and normal flu ought to be raised to this level too, because they have the same wide spreadness and are most dangerous to the same classes of people, the elderly, children and those with immune issues. Every single year the "poultry (normal)" flu kills many, many more people in the exact same way and in the exact same circumstances.

    This is only getting attention because of the media hype. The left wants more money to expand government to deal with it, and the right wants money to build a fence to keep things like this from coming from Mexico into the US, and the media is psyched because it's new, has political tie-ins, and came when the meltdown was becoming old-news.

    Not only that, are we really surprised? Pigs are biologically similar enough to humans that we use pig organs for some transplants. Having infections that cross the species barrier in this way seem blatantly obvious.
  • by Convector ( 897502 ) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @02:08PM (#28297217)

    That would be a great observation except that:

    2007 - Chinese year of the Boar
    2008 - Chinese year of the Rat
    2009 - Chinese year of the Ox

    So next year, we should be worried about Tiger Flu.

  • by Publikwerks ( 885730 ) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @02:17PM (#28297417)
    Ricardo Montalbán did hail from Mexico, died, and like a month later, bam, h1n1! Swine flu should be renamed "The Wrath of Khan"!
  • by smallferret ( 946526 ) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @02:17PM (#28297419)
    In all of the planning that's been going on in my public health work, the big worry is that this will repeat the pattern of the 1918 pandemic: - The disease shows up in a weak form in the spring, makes some people mildly ill, kills some people who are traditionally susceptible to influenza (very young, elderly, and people with chronic disease) - The disease mostly disappears through the summer--not entirely, but becomes much less common - The disease shows up again in the fall in a new, much more virulent form, and has a much higher mortality rate, especially among healthy adults. See this graph [wikipedia.org], which shows how the mortality among different ages was very different from traditional influenza. There is no guarantee that this would happen, and no guarantee that it won't peter out like the 1976 fiasco. But we see it as a better bet to risk the accusation of an overreaction than to risk not being prepared.
  • Re:Jumping the gun (Score:5, Informative)

    by Neon Aardvark ( 967388 ) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @02:24PM (#28297515) Homepage

    Er, the 1918 flu pandemic started as a mild but very infectious disease. Then, come autumn, it killed more people than WW1. And mostly young people at that.

    Furthermore, maybe you should look up what the word "pandemic" actually means. They're using it correctly. You're not.

  • by Pebble ( 99243 ) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @02:26PM (#28297559)

    Yes you are...

    Because when we save an infant or an elderly person from the flu they don't wait for the next flu to come around. They either grow up and get a better immune system or they eventually die of something else.

    We don't have a backlog of pensioners and infants who didn't die of the flu before just waiting until the flu comes round again so they can die of it, They don't pile up like dry old logs and brush.

  • Re:"H1N1" (Score:3, Informative)

    by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @02:35PM (#28297691) Homepage
    "And it gave fresh ammunition to a cottage industry that loves to bash The Times as a bastion of the 'liberal media.'"
    -- New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt on the MoveOn.org ad, Sept. 23, 2007

    "Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper? Of course it is."
    -- headline and first paragraph of column by New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent, July 25, 2004

  • Re:"H1N1" (Score:4, Informative)

    by RDW ( 41497 ) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @03:00PM (#28298151)

    'Infuenza A H1N1' is really no more specific than just 'H1N1', since all H1N1 flu viruses are Influenza A. There doesn't seem to be a generally agreed name that's both snappy and specific, so you'll see things like 'Novel H1N1 Influenza' and '2009 A/H1N1'. Virologists use more detailed identifiers for individual isolates, like 'A/New York/3002/2009(H1N1)'.

  • Re:Overreaction (Score:3, Informative)

    by Cedric Tsui ( 890887 ) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @03:59PM (#28299161)
    Hmmm. I don't think you have it right.

    The level 6 pandemic declaration signifies that the WHO believes containment and eradication of the pathogen is not a possible scenario. This means the total number of infected will steadily increase. Exposed individuals will be prescribed bed rest instead of antivirals as supplies become limited to health care workers. A(H1N1) will become a widespread strain of the flu and some day a year, or 2 years or 5 years from now, YOU will contract it and its low (but higher than the seasonal flu) chance of causing fatality.

    That doesn't mean it will be terrible. Not much worst than the seasonal flu. Especially since the virus has spread slowly enough that the vaccine should be available before we are at a significant risk of contracting the disease. But in due time, you will be seeing the '1 million dead' headline.
  • Re:"H1N1" (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11, 2009 @06:22PM (#28301503)

    Anon because I work for the CDC Flu Division, but can't really comment in any official capacity.

    H1N1 is not specific, considering that we have a seasonal virus of the same type currently circulating. Wikipedia gets the gist of it right, but fails to nail down the details.

    H1N1 refers to all of the following:

    * The 1918 pandemic virus. It circulated until 1957. This typically gets called '1918' specifically, or 'historical H1' if you are talking about the stuff that circulated for the next 40 years.

    *The virus that was reintroduced in 1977. It looks to be similar to a 1955 virus, and was probably reintroduced due to a lab mistake in Russia. The descendants of this virus are still circulating today - if you've had a flu shot recently, you've been vaccinated against this. We typically call this 'seasonal H1' - no N1 usually, because H1N2 puts on the occasional appearance in humans. Only in the past few years have we started tracking the NA gene consistently so that we can check for TamiFlu resistance.

    *Any number of avian viruses. Birds are the major carriers of most kinds of flu, and there is no large scale monitoring of what all exists in that population - yet. This is 'avian H1'.

    *Any number of older swine viruses. H1N1 has been in pigs for quite a while. This is typically 'classic swine H1'.

    *North American triple-reassortant swine viruses. These are viruses that circulate in swine, occasionally infect humans, but don't tend to spread human-to-human very well. This is usually 'triple-reassortant classic swine H1' - no H1N1 here, because sometimes it is H1N2 instead, just to confuse things.

    *Eurasian swine virues. A whole other lineage of swine viruses. They are similar to the classical swine viruses in North America. Recently, the North American stuff has been circulating in Eurasia as well, so the geographical naming doesn't really work.

    *The '2009 H1N1 swine-lineage' outbreak virus, which is what we are talking about here. This is a mixture of triple-reassortant swine H1, the Eurasian swine H1, and yet another swine-adapted H1 that we've never really seen before (surveillance in pigs has been horrible until this outbreak - people are paying *much* closer attention now).

    We can't call it swine flu because the pork board gets pissy. We can't call it Mexican flu because the Mexican gov't gets pissy. There is some speculation that it might have actually originated in a country other than Mexico, but if you try to name it after any of those countries, they'll get their panties in a bunch, too.

    The (current) designation in official circles is 'H1 swl', meaning that the HA gene is derived from the 2009 outbreak lineage.

    All of this is the outgrowth of some arbitrary classification rules that were put in place years ago having to do with genetic distances between viruses and antigenic cross reactivity (how well your immune system recognizes this virus if it has been trained to recognize that virus).

    Those classifications stick because they are useful, but they don't really describe all the various tricks that the virus does very well.

    Me? I like the 'Bacon Lung' name that was in vogue here for a bit. It's just as accurate as anything else!

System checkpoint complete.