Are you prepared for a flu pandemic like that of 1968?
I found this picture of a 1918 flu pandemic scene from Google. Medical science has progressed a lot since then, but so have the viruses. God Willing, we should prevail!
Can we ever be prepared for something like this? The pandemic of 1968 killed 34,000 people in the US and is suspected of having caused more than a million deaths worldwide. When I saw the Yahoo News headline that blared ;
Is swine flu ‘the big one’ or a flu that fizzles?
I just had to find out more.
GlobalSecurity.org, claims to be the leading source of background information and developing news stories in the fields of defense, space, intelligence, WMD, and homeland security in the US. They have put up what seems to be a comprehensive report on the present outbreak of swine influenza which is spreading a huge alarm all over the world.
The webpage also lists the history of pandemics which have happened in the past. The last one which was closest to us was that termed the 1968 Hong Kong Flu, which as mentioned above, resulted in nearly 34,000 deaths in the United States and thought to have caused around 1 million deaths worldwide. The 1968 pandemic vaccine became available one month after the outbreaks peaked in the US.
Our own Department of Public Health seems to have not put up any advisories on their website as at the time of writing this post. Neither the Disease Control Division or the News section seems to have any warnings or suggestions on what the public should do in the light of this outbreak in Mexico.
The Online version of the Star reported that the Ministry of Health has now issued travel advisories against travel to the US, Canada and Mexico. Medical officers at all hospitals and clinics, private and public, have been asked to report the incidence of any influenza like illnesses. (Hopefully their websites will be updated.)
I also found an article from WHO distributed by our Kementerian Kesihatan on the ten things we need to know about Pandemic Influenza. I must say that it is not reassuring, as it says that medical supplies will be inadequate, the whole world will be affected, there would be widespread illnesses, social and economic disruptions will be great and that large number of deaths will occur.
Now is the time of the global village, where someone can go to London for a meeting and return immediately. The ease of travel, and the sheer number of travellers all over the world is sure to accelerate the spread of the virus.
The new virus, though called a swine flu, contains genetic segments from humans and birds viruses as well as from pigs from North America, Europe and Asia. Health officials had seen combinations of bird, pig and human virus before — but never such an intercontinental mix, including more than one pig virus. More disturbing, this virus seems to spread among people more easily than past swine flus.
Back to the title of this post, I suppose we can never ever be prepared for something like this. I am not sure if a vaccine has already been developed. And even if so, is the availability sufficient to vaccinate the huge number of people involved.
My family members are all aware of this spreading phenomenon. After all our family is quite a Net savvy family. Still there is a real danger of taking this lightly as the initial symptoms are not much different from that of the common flu!
I can only pray that the lessons our country and our people have learned from the SARS outbreak in 2002/3 will stand us in good stead.
As expected, this topic is one of the hotter topics around. Google has a list of blog posts on this topic here. And the good news is that Reuters has reported on Sunday that most of the Mexican suspected flu victims have been given a clean bill of health and sent home.