Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why the Swine Flu is more dangerous than the regular flu

Why is this strain dangerous?

There are three reasons why this issue is more serious than the regular flu.

a) The main issue with this strain is that no one has a natural immunity to it, because it has never really been seen before this point in time in it's current genetic form. And a vaccine can take months to develop. Vaccines generally take at least 9 months to develop under normal conditions, and even the accelerated development of the vaccines for this strain will take until at least September to develop. You can see where problems are going to arise. People are just going to keep on catching it and not fighting it of effectively, and then pass it on to others, because we have nothing to fight it off completely yet. To be more specific, this new strain has taken on genetic elements from animal viruses, potentially making it (genetically) unique enough to pose a pandemic threat. Experts say that our current seasonal flu vaccines are not going to be effective against this strain at all.

b) This particular strain seems to attack the young and healthy, rather than the sickly, old, or extremely young. The people who died in Mexico were younger (healthy people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s). The problem with this is that when a virus attacks healthy people preferentially, it suggests that the strain is completely new and is causing overreactions in the immune system. Basically, the logic is that this strain is causing the body to create abnormally large numbers of normally helpful inflammatory antibodies, which are so abundant that they actually end up causing more harm than good. This is exactly what happened with the bird flu fairly recently.

c) It's all about the potential ... it's not about what's happening right now. Even though most of the cases so far in the United States have not been very serious (except for that one kid who died), the virus spreading across the U.S. is identical to the strain of the virus that is killing people in Mexico (genetically speaking), meaning that the possibility that there could be similar deaths in the U.S. is not completely unfathomable.

What is the main alarm bell?

Sudden onset fever. Watch out for this in particular.

Are there are signs of hope?

Influenza strains don't like the heat of summer. So this issue is going to die out somewhat (or significantly) during the summer months. This gives us a short window of a few months to develop a vaccine as rapidly as possible.

What's the best way to prevent getting this?

All we can really do is use hand sanitizers and wash our hands with soap whenever we touch a public surface. Also, if you suspect someone has the flu around you, get at least 3 - 6 feet the heck away from them.


opit said...

Kudos on an old post. I ran into some guys still not recovered from the loss of their community on Journal Space and linked your Google Cache article to their comments - and saved on
I was thinking the Wayback Machine - Internet Archive might have more also.

I'm no doctor - but believe overuse of sanitizer is as much a mistake as overuse of antibiotics - and for similar reasons: cultivating MSRAs.
Plus the stuff is hard on one's hide ; and breaking up the barrier with toxins is not smart.

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