Saturday, April 25, 2009

Flu Fears Abound


I spent the morning at Target today buying emergency supplies, things I don't normally get, at least in great quantities: first aid kit, bottled water, batteries, protective masks, etc. It is only a matter of time until the next global pandemic hits and the time may very well be now.

According to the World Health Organization and medical experts, Mexico and the United States are seeing cases of a totally new influenza strain, H1N1--a lethal combination of swine, avian, and human virus wrapped up as one. 68 people have died in Mexico already with a suspected 1000 plus infected with the new strain. Eight cases have been reported in the U.S. with no deaths. Particularly disturbing is that the majority of dead in Mexico are aged 25-45--an age group that typically does okay during a normal flu outbreak but did poorly during the 1918 Spanish Flu, a global pandemic which killed 50 million people worldwide.

There are some advantages that humankind has in the 21st century which were not available 100 years ago. First, our technology, knowledge, and sanitary practices are better. We also have a better understand of these viruses and have the ability to make vaccines and anti-virals. In this particular instance we also are lucky in the sense that we are entering the warm summer months--a time of year that is inhospitable to flu viruses.

Still, the WHO, CDC, and governments across the globe need to act quickly. The U.S. government should consider temporarily closing the border with Mexico. Some of the 75 students at a private school in Queens, New York, who are suspected of contracting the Mexican flu traveled to Mexico recently. In our global age where international travel is relatively easy, cheap, and common, governments have to act quickly to contain the outbreak, though it may be too late already.

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