Disease Control / Emerging Diseases / Livestock / Zoonotic Diseases

Lessons from swine flu

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The once-looming public health threat has receded… But we’re Still Understanding Our Role in Such Outbreaks

The American media circus has moved on, the drugstores are removing the “H1N1 Vaccinations Available Here” signs, and most people are engaged with other concerns. Like SARS, avian flu and hantavirus, swine flu is yesterday’s scare. But perhaps we’re acting too fast in relegating this very real concern into the hall of fame for epidemics that might have been.

Our bout with swine flu killed more than 12,000 people in the U.S. alone, and more than 25,000 worldwide. Seasonal flu typically causes 36,000 U.S. deaths annually, but what’s striking about H1N1 is that some 90% of its deaths occurred in people under 65.

At the influential Centers for Disease Control (CDC), they’re hedging their bets. “The chances of a very large additional wave are very hard to predict,” says Anne Schuchat, team H1N1 leader at the government agency. “We are not out of the woods.” But while the threat remains, swine flu lost its capacity for shock and awe after the disease peaked last October, for reasons that are not completely clear. There was considerable fear that cases would continue to climb through the winter, fostered by cold weather, low humidity and closed-in seasonal living. In late March, confirming these fears at least in part, the CDC reported a spike of swine flu cases in the Southeast. The agency called the situation in Georgia, where 190 people were hospitalized from H1N1 virus over a three-week span, “critical.”

Read more (E Magazine – The Environmental Magazine)

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