(1)Although dubbed “swine flu”, this flu has not been identified from pigs in Mexico, nor is it caught directly from pigs. It is an influenza virus that seems to have originated in viruses of other species such as pigs, birds or humans. Although it is not caught directly from pigs, it has the ability to infect and transmit between humans. Hence the pandemic alert.
Genetic analysis suggests that the virus is unable to grow in areas beyond the respiratory tract, although it is already well adapted for binding to the upper respiratory tract of humans.
*Note – Another reason to suggest that it is strongly advisable for Smokers to think seriously about ceasing smoking, as their habit may well weaken their ability to combat flu in general.
(2)Is swine flu a bioterrorist virus? Is this flu man made for political reasons?
The fact is that we still know so little about flu, and what makes it capable of spreading from human to human, means that deliberately engineering a virus of this kind would be a huge challenge. Yes, it's possible that this virus was created by a mistake at a research laboratory or a vaccine factory.
The swine flu could still be regarded as man-made. On crowded factory farms, viruses
can spread like wildfire, helped by the global trade in animals and animal products.
The interaction with animals, especially on small-holdings where pigs, ducks, chickens
and children all happily intermingle, also provides plenty of opportunities for viruses
to jump species.
There are now over 6 billion people on the planet, and each year we raise more than a billion pigs and perhaps as many as 70 billion chickens. The result is a paradise for influenza viruses.
(3)The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.
Every year in the United States, on average: 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;
More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications;
A study conducted by CDC and published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) in September 2004...) and
About 36,000 people die from flu-related causes.
(In 2009, CDC published additional estimates of flu-related deaths comparing different methods, including the methods used in the 2003 JAMA study. The seasons studied included the 1993-94 through the 2002-03 flu seasons . Results from this study showed that during this time period, 36,171 flu-related deaths occurred per year, on average.)
Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), are at high risk for serious flu complications, where complications of flue can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of their chronic medical conditions.
Flu viruses are thought to 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. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 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.
(4)Swine flu a travel insurance issue –
It could be prudent for travellers bound for overseas to check their health insurance cover. They could be left with hefty medical bills, as insurance policies may not cover them for swine flu. It could mean a person is not covered for hospitalisation related to wine or avian flu, if there is mass media coverage about world problem spots, or travel warnings current from the government. Advice is that travellers should check the coverage of other insurance contracts they may possess, such as life insurance and income protection.
(4) WHO update 5th May 2009
21 countries have officially reported 1085 cases of influenza A (H1N1) infection.
Mexico has reported 590 laboratory confirmed human cases of infection, including 25 deaths. The United States has reported 286 laboratory confirmed human cases, including one death.
The following countries have reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths - Austria (1), Canada (101), China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (1), Costa Rica (1), Colombia (1), Denmark (1), El Salvador (2), France (4), Germany (8), Ireland (1), Israel (4), Italy (2), Netherlands (1), New Zealand (6), Portugal (1), Republic of Korea (1), Spain (54), Switzerland (1) and the United Kingdom (18).
It is considered prudent for people who are ill to delay international travel and for people developing symptoms following international travel to seek medical attention, in line with guidance from national authorities. Individuals are advised to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water on a regular basis and should seek medical attention if they develop any symptoms of influenza-like illness.
WHO advises no restriction of regular travel or closure of borders.
There is no risk of infection from this virus from consumption of well-cooked pork and pork products.
Further information on the situation will be available on the WHO website on a regular basis.
(6)Fact Buster –
Public health expert Professor Raina MacIntyre (http://origin.cdc.gov/eid/content/15/2/233.htm) the protective value of surgical versus P2 masks in 143 NSW families who had a child attend a hospital emergency department because of influenza. Those parents who wore a surgical or P2 mask while tending to their sick kids were four times less likely to get influenza or other respiratory viruses, the study found.
Because the influenza virus is transmitted in droplets of water, rather than through the air, placing a protective barrier over your face can block its entry into your mouth or nose.
MacIntyre suggests using disposable paper masks (ie surgical masks), which you can buy from pharmacies, as they are cheap and easy to use. both McIntyre's research and a Melbourne study found surgical masks work just as well.
Apart from wearing a mask, the best way to protect yourself from influenza – and any other infectious disease – is to follow normal good hygiene practices.
"Hand washing is extremely important and very, very protective," says MacIntyre. Alcohol gel, rinses and foams do work, but they are no more effective than soap and water.
(7)Even as Fears of Flu Ebb, Mexicans Feel Stigma –
Mexicans say they have been typecast as disease carriers and subjected to humiliating treatment.
Scientists have yet to pinpoint the origin of the virus, the earliest cases of which were found in the southwestern United States and in various parts of Mexico. But according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,it contains genes from flu viruses that normally circulate in pigs in Europe and Asia, as well as avian and human genes. Some health experts say it also now appears less lethal than once feared.
(1) New York Times, May 1, 2009, Health, Mexico Limits Many Activities as Flue Alerts are increased,
(2) NewScience, April 27, 2009, Science News Blog from NewScience,
(3)Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, March 12, 2009, Key Facts About Seasonal Influenza (flu)
(4)The World Health Organisation, May 4, 2009, Influenza A(H1N1) – update 14,
(5)Sky News Australia health report news, Swine Flu Travel Insurance Issue, May 5th, 2009
(6)ABC Health, 29th April, 2009, Health/Talking Health/Fact Buster, Will a face mask protect me from swine flu,
(7)New York Times, World/Asia Pacific, 5th May, 2009,