Saturday, November 28, 2009

An update on H1N1

According to this week’s HealthMap Blog Somalia reported its first cases of H1N1, raising the pandemic into 86 different nations. Furthermore, HealthMap reported on the emergence of Tamiflu-resistant strains among hospitalized patients in Wales. The BBC News reported, last Friday 20 November, that while the strain does not appear to cause more severe illness in patients than the common H1N1, and while this was expected by virologists and public health officials, its rise and even more so person-to-person transmission is of serious concern to public health. Additionally, similar cases were reported last Friday at the Duke University Hospital in North Carolina. Little more information was found regarding these cases; however, reports have stated that much ongoing research is investigating the detriment caused by this strain.

In addition to the rise of the tamiflu-resistant strain, HealthMap also noted the most recent detection, by Norwegian scientists, of a mutated viral strain potentially causing infection deeper into the airways leading to more severe disease. However, the same mutated strain was also observed in Finland, where at least 14 lives have been claimed out of the Nation’s near 5,900 reported cases, yet the strain was not found to cause more severe illness. According to the WHO, this same mutation has been observed in China, Japan, Mexico, Ukraine, and the United States without appearing to give rise to increased virulence.

As the “swine flu” or, to be politically correct, H1N1 continues to wage war against the strength of the human immune system, supplemented with anti-viral drugs, and the management of public health; we should not succumb to public fears. Despite the approximate 525,000 reported cases, the near 7,000 deaths caused by H1N1, and the eastward spread of the virus, its activity has significantly decreased in the United States, where cases run the highest.

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