Monday, April 27, 2009

Swine flu outbreak: Worse than reported?

BBC News has published e-mails from Mexico on the virulence of the new strain of influenza. Looks pretty bad. Here is one sample:

I'm a specialist doctor in respiratory diseases and intensive care at the Mexican National Institute of Health. There is a severe emergency over the swine flu here. More and more patients are being admitted to the intensive care unit. Despite the heroic efforts of all staff (doctors, nurses, specialists, etc) patients continue to inevitably die. The truth is that anti-viral treatments and vaccines are not expected to have any effect, even at high doses. It is a great fear among the staff. The infection risk is very high among the doctors and health staff.

There is a sense of chaos in the other hospitals and we do not know what to do. Staff are starting to leave and many are opting to retire or apply for holidays. The truth is that mortality is even higher than what is being reported by the authorities, at least in the hospital where I work it. It is killing three to four patients daily, and it has been going on for more than three weeks. It is a shame and there is great fear here. Increasingly younger patients aged 20 to 30 years are dying before our helpless eyes and there is great sadness among health professionals here.
Antonio Chavez, Mexico City

At least one case has already been reported in Texas (a child, whose family has been quarantined), but I presume there will be more.

If the U.S. suffers a major epidemic, fear of contagion might be more devastating, economically, than the disease itself. Truckers might refuse to drive, warehouse personnel and grocery clerks might refuse to show up for work, etc., which will lead to shortages.If you haven't stocked up on food and supplies that will enable you to remain home-bound for a few weeks, do it now. And while you're out shopping, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth unless you've disinfected your hands first.

A scarcely necessary update (5/9/09)

Fred Reed pronounces Mexican Swine Flu "a media frenzy staged by bored news weasels."

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