Archive for April 30th, 2009

Swine Flu Face Mask

Swine Flu Face Mask

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you have been bombarded with news coverage of the swine flu (H1N1) for several days now.  I first heard about the outbreaks in the airport when catching a Southwest Airlines flight. 

Whether you’re getting ready for a motorcycle ride, a Megadeath concert or just looking to personalize a face mask — during this pandemic people are injecting some fun into the panic and using them as a fashion statement.

Pity the poor HOG…the CDC has officially stopped calling the virus “swine flu,” opting instead for the more hog-friendly H1N1 flu.  The swine influenza is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses and has a major economic impact on the swine industry in the United States. Flu outbreaks in pigs are common, especially during winter months.  Somehow it got to Mexico and then mixed with humans. The World Health Organization (WHO) raised its pandemic alert to level 5, which is the 2nd highest level of alert that indicates a swine flu pandemic is imminent.  Level 5 exceeds the level achieved by both the Avian and SARS outbreaks of past years.

In the 1976 Swine Flu outbreak federal officials pushed for widespread vaccinations after swine flu broke out among soldiers at Fort Dix, NJ., killing one of the 14 diagnosed with the illness.  The program was suspended after at least 25 people died from the vaccine reactions. Another 500 or more later suffered from Guillain-Barre syndrome, which damages nerves and can lead to paralysis.  43M people received the flu shots with the help of TV ads.  Dr. David Sencer (Dir. of CDC) was fired over the deaths although at the time health officials were very concerned with a pandemic on the scale of the 1918 flu outbreak that killed an estimated 21M people.

I’m not trying to do a “Joe” (Biden says: “stay off airplanes and subways”) and cause undo alarm.  In fact, I think this has been overblown by the media.  Sort of a crisis of the week.  As of this writing 11 countries have reported 257 cases.  The U.S. has reported 109 cases including one death.  Mexico, where it originated, reported 97 cases and 7 deaths.  It’s been reported that over 30K people die each year during a typical flu season so this outbreak has a way to go to match that level.

Be safe out there!

More information links:

  1. Ministry of Health (Mexico)
  2. World Health Organization (Swineflu)
  3. CDC (Swineflu Key Facts; Brochure)
  4. Pandemic Flu Info

Photo courtesy Getty Images.

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