Tuesday, April 13, 2010

H1N1 Update

Very interesting op-ed at NYT on a year after the outbreak started.  Interesting facts plus a good perspective on it all.
But the struggle between people and pathogens is a part of life itself. We cannot continue to be surprised every time a new virus emerges. Instead, we must use the lessons we’ve learned during the year since H1N1 arrived to develop more effective public health responses.
 Some highlights
  • Mexico took a big risk and hit--it reported the possible epidemic quickly despite the likelihood of a steep penalty economically.  The cost--one percent of GDP!  Pretty significant for a country beset by all kinds of problems.
    • Much better than China and SARS
    • Demonstrates a need for perhaps providing incentives for countries to be as swift as Mexico.
  • Health officials screwed up: kids were contagious up to three ways after fever disappeared (if it appeared at all), and adults were contagious between 5-7 days.  So, folks were going back to school and work to spread the disease.
    • What is it about kids that make them contagious longer?  Just a funky reality to note.
  • The article takes seriously that a "mild" epidemic in a developed country does not mean the pandemic was mild across the globe.  Of course, the US faced a less nasty outcome.
  • We really have no clue about how many people were infected since not everyone got a fever.
    • 1/3 of British kids in a survey showed antibodies--which meant they had been infected, which was ten times more than the estimates.
We need more international cooperation to head off the next one, as there will surely be a next one.

I guess this leaves me a bit uncertain about whether we are better prepared or not for an outbreak of the Z virus.

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