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Intrepidation

Mexico fights swine flu with 'pandemic potential'

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MEXICO CITY – A new swine flu strain that has killed as many as 68 people and sickened more than 1,000 across Mexico has "pandemic potential," the World Health Organization chief said Saturday, and it may be too late to contain the sudden outbreak.

The disease has already reached Texas and California, and with 24 new suspected cases reported Saturday in Mexico City alone, schools were closed and all public events suspended in the capital until further notice — including more than 500 concerts and other gatherings in the metropolis of 20 million.

A hot line fielded 2,366 calls in its first hours from frightened city residents who suspected they might have the disease. Soldiers and health workers handed out masks at subway stops, and hospitals dealt with crowds of people seeking help.

The World Health Organization's director-general, Margaret Chan, said the outbreak of the never-before-seen virus is a very serious situation and has "pandemic potential." But she said it is still too early to tell if it would become a worldwide outbreak.

"The situation is evolving quickly," Chan said in a telephone news conference in Geneva. "A new disease is by definition poorly understood."

This virus is a mix of human, pig and bird strains that prompted WHO to meet Saturday to consider declaring an international public health emergency — a step that could lead to travel advisories, trade restrictions and border closures. Spokesman Gregory Hartl said a decision would not be made Saturday.

Scientists have warned for years about the potential for a pandemic from viruses that mix genetic material from humans and animals. Another reason to worry is that authorities said the dead so far don't include vulnerable infants and elderly. The Spanish flu pandemic, which killed at least 40 million people worldwide in 1918-19, also first struck otherwise healthy young adults.

This swine flu and regular flu can have similar symptoms — mostly fever, cough and sore throat, though some of the U.S. victims who recovered also experienced vomiting and diarrhea. But unlike with regular flu, humans don't have natural immunity to a virus that includes animal genes — and new vaccines can take months to bring into use.

But experts at the WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the nature of this outbreak may make containment impossible. Already, more than 1,000 people have been infected in as many as 14 of Mexico's 32 states, according to daily newspaper El Universal. Tests show 20 people have died of the swine flu, and 48 other deaths were probably due to the same strain.

The CDC and Canadian health officials were studying samples sent from Mexico, and airports around the world were screening passengers from Mexico for symptoms of the new flu strain, saying they may quarantine passengers.

But CDC officials dismissed the idea of trying that in the United States, and some expert said it's too late to try to contain spread of the virus.

They noted there had been no direct contact between the cases in the San Diego and San Antonio areas, suggesting the virus had already spread from one geographic area through other undiagnosed people.

"Anything that would be about containing it right now would purely be a political move," said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota pandemic expert.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon said his government only discovered the nature of the virus late Thursday, with the help of international laboratories. "We are doing everything necessary," he said in a brief statement.

But the government had said for days that its growing flu caseload was nothing unusual, so the sudden turnaround angered many who wonder if Mexico missed an opportunity to contain the outbreak.

"Why did it break out, where did it break out? What's the magnitude of the problem?" pizzeria owner David Vasquez said while taking his family to a movie Friday night, despite warnings to stay out of theaters.

Beginning in late March, when the flu season usually starts to taper off, health officials began recording a spike in cases — three times the normal number.

On April 16, Assistant Health Secretary Mauricio Hernandez noted "an unusual transmission period" of regular, seasonal flu.

Starting two days later, health teams were sent to hospitals looking for patients with severe flu or pnuemonia-like symptoms. They noticed something strange: The flu was killing people aged 20 to 40, though flu victims are either infants or the elderly.

This Wednesday, Hernandez said testing was being carried out in Mexican labs, and hospitals were alerted to watch out for cases. But testing at Mexican labs did not alert doctors to the new strain — even though U.S. authorities had detected cases in California and Texas by April 19.

Mexico City Health Secretary Dr. Armando Ahued said it wasn't until mid-afternoon Thursday that authorities received a call "from the United States and Canada, the most important laboratories in the field, telling us this was a new virus."

"That was what led us to realize it wasn't a seasonal virus ... and take more serious preventative measures," federal Health Secretary Jose Cordova said.

Across Mexico's capital, residents reacted with fatalism and confusion, anger and mounting fear at the idea that their city may be ground zero for a global epidemic.

Authorities urged people to stay home if they feel sick and to avoid shaking hands or kissing people on the cheeks.

Outside Hospital Obregon in the capital's middle-class Roma district, a tired Dr. Roberto Ortiz, 59, leaned against an ambulance and sipped coffee Saturday on a break from an unusually busy shift.

"The people are scared," Ortiz said. "A person gets some flu symptoms or a child gets a fever and they think it is this swine flu and rush to the hospital."

He said none of the cases so far at the hospital had turned out to be swine flu.

Jose Donasiano Rosales, 69, got nervous on the subway and decided to get out one stop early.

"I felt I couldn't be there for even one more station," Donasiano said as he set up a rack to sell newspapers on a busy thoroughfare. "We're in danger of contagion. ... I'm worried."

The local Roman Catholic Church recommended that priests shorten Mass; place communion wafers in worshippers' hands, instead of their mouths; and ask parishioners to avoid kissing or shaking hands during the rite of peace. The Archdiocese also said Catholics could fulfill their Mass obligation by radio.

Ahued, the capital's health secretary, said Mexico City may not be the epicenter of the outbreak — and could be appearing to the brunt simply because it is home to the most sophisticated medical centers.

"The country's best health care facilities are concentrated in the city," he said. "All the cases here get reported, that's why the number is so high."

The same virus also sickened at least eight people in Texas and California, though there have been no deaths north of the border, puzzling experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A "seed stock" genetically matched to the new swine flu virus has been created by the CDC, said Dr. Richard Besser, the agency's acting director. If the government decides vaccine production is necessary, manufacturers would need that stock to get started.

The CDC says two flu drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza, seem effective against the new strain. Roche, the maker of Tamiflu, said the company is prepared to immediately deploy a stockpile of the drug if requested. Both drugs must be taken early, within a few days of the onset of symptoms, to be most effective.

Mexico's Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova said the country has enough Tamiflu to treat 1 million people — only one in 20 people in greater Mexico City alone — and that the medicine will be strictly controlled and handed out only by doctors.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090425/ap_on_...a/med_swine_flu

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Yeah um, this whole thing is bothering me a bit... especially since I start my new job at the Airport of all places May 4th... of course I'll be working in the Terminal Administration office rather than at the gates. I think a lot of areas in the world will be more prepared if this goes pandemic though, mainly through the preparations that were made during the bird flu scare and the lessons learned from SARS in places like Toronto.

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It's also encouraging that it seems to respond to Tamiflu, but it is very discerning how it's made of human, avian, and pig strains and how it managed to get the US.

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It's also encouraging that it seems to respond to Tamiflu, but it is very discerning how it's made of human, avian, and pig strains and how it managed to get the US.

Real simple how it got here:

If illegals are not deterred by rivers, walls, barbed wire, tunnels, Border Patrol, Minutemen, whatever. . .

You think a little flu is going to stop them once it is their turn to go across. You have to remember that illegals spend lots of money sometimes to get across the border.

I'm sure there are also other ways too.

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Real simple how it got here:

If illegals are not deterred by rivers, walls, barbed wire, tunnels, Border Patrol, Minutemen, whatever. . .

You think a little flu is going to stop them once it is their turn to go across. You have to remember that illegals spend lots of money sometimes to get across the border.

I'm sure there are also other ways too.

There are Mexicans who cross the border legally, too, ya know. And people can be infected before showing symptoms.

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Real simple how it got here:

If illegals are not deterred by rivers, walls, barbed wire, tunnels, Border Patrol, Minutemen, whatever. . .

You think a little flu is going to stop them once it is their turn to go across. You have to remember that illegals spend lots of money sometimes to get across the border.

I'm sure there are also other ways too.

There are Mexicans who cross the border legally, too, ya know. And people can be infected before showing symptoms.

Not just that... Mexico City is a long, long way from the border.

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I just didn't want to elaborate, that's why I said I'm sure there are more ways. I was just giving one example.

Shock and Awe LOL!

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Yeah, this is an immigration issue, not a human health issue. :rolleyes:

It really is both. Immigration on all fronts. Legal, illegal, temporary. This is how all sickness gets spread.

But as far as human health, it needs to be addressed because spreading it will only cause more problems without a solution.

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Move along, forget the tinfoil hat, there's nothing to see here....

Edited by Sixty8panther
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It really is both. Immigration on all fronts. Legal, illegal, temporary. This is how all sickness gets spread.

But as far as human health, it needs to be addressed because spreading it will only cause more problems without a solution.

It's a compelling angle for sure- but I hope that it doesn't start being picked up in political talking points in Washington because it would only stymie the nation's response to the viral threat through grandstanding and smokescreens. I don't think this will spread like the similar 1919 H1N1 Spanish flu as that pandemic was facilitated by the boys coming home from WWI, what you could call a mass one time migration.

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Move along, forget the tinfoil hat, there's nothing to see here....

Yep :AH-HA_wink:

We need to isolate ourselves from the world, block off all trade, build walls around our borders, block all immigration.

Only then will we have employment for all, and freedom from other countries.

Although were going to need to annex Canada for their resources first...

Edited by Teh Ricer Civic!
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I find it disgusting that some people are suffering and dieing and other people want to politicize their suffering and death to get rid of the dirty brown people selling oranges along the freeway.

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This is actually starting to get pretty serious...it has already spread to New York, California, Texas, Kansas, and Minnesota. It's also apparently in Nova Scotia, New Zealand, Britain, and other places now. This is all within the last 24-48 hours.

Apparently it has been largely affecting the 20-40 age range and the mortality rate has been about 6%. It has gotten to the point where officials say the spread is beyond control. On the bright side, it seems like most deaths have been contained to Mexico and some in New York have recovered, but we are still in the early stages of this outbreak.

My mom contracted the Swine Flu during the last big outbreak in 1976 and she nearly died from it. She went from 120 lbs down to 90 lbs while hospitalized over a 2 week period, and it took her months to regain full energy back.

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I find it disgusting that some people are suffering and dieing and other people want to politicize their suffering and death to get rid of the dirty brown people selling oranges along the freeway.

Well, AZ is full of them, and many of them are unsanitary, which is how the swine flu has spread.

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Dont you think the first response should be "Lets find an effective treatment or cure and make it available to the masses" instead of "Lets round up people who talk funny"?

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Dont you think the first response should be "Lets find an effective treatment or cure and make it available to the masses" instead of "Lets round up people who talk funny"?

Yes.

Illegal immigration is a different problem. Don't know what the answer is to that one. The problem is that the economy is now dependent on having a permanent underclass to do the low pay sh*t jobs, I'm afraid.

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Sounds like the four or so cases in Nova Scotia college students is very mild... Lets hope it stays that way.

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Remind me again... how many people die of more common strains of the flu?

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Remind me again... how many people die of more common strains of the flu?

An outrageous # in the US, something like 25k a year...no idea what the worldwide # is. It's huge.

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What may makes this one different though is the "normal" flu for the most part it fatal to elderly and young children. This strain killed young to middle aged adults.

However, it could very much have to do with Mexico City's health and living conditions (I don't know) since in the US no one has died, and Tamilfu does seem to work.

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An outrageous # in the US, something like 25k a year...no idea what the worldwide # is. It's huge.

How many of those deaths are directly a result

of the Flu I wonder? How many are because

people do not get hospitalized until it's too late

or blow off Dr.'s warnings?

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We should just get rid of children and old people, since they're most susceptible to the flu and most likely to transmit it to another person, right?

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So.... if I see a pig sneeze should I run away or check myself into a mental-health institution? :smilewide:

Edited by ZL-1
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I agree, we need to find a solution to this problem. Figure out what works, and then send it to Mexico so the sick people can get better.

How is this different from SARS?

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