U.S. Declares Public Health Emergency Over Swine Flu as The World Health Organization Declares International Concern
August, 1998, North Carolina. 2,400 animals fall ill with symptoms similar to the human flu. Almost 10% of pregnant sows lose their litters. Surviving piglets are born small and weak as about 50 sows die. The disease that struck these animals was a new strain of flu. The animals had little immunity to the new swine flu. Influenza strains outside North America experience continuous adaption, but this was the first such sign of a flu virus evolving into a different strain and sickening American pigs since 1930.
Recently, since that initial outbreak, flu viruses have been constantly altering and sweeping through North America's pigs. After years of stability, swine flu viruses have jumped on the fast track of change, providing new strains on a constant basis.
One theory for the surge of the ever-changing strains considers increased vaccination practices. During the last few years researchers have determined that these new swine flu viruses may spell danger for humans as well. Constantly evolving viruses created a better chance that one strain may adapt enough to become transmissible among humans, and cause an outbreak more severe than the recent avian flu viruses worldwide.
Flu viruses experiencing genetic shifts, as are the swine flu viruses in North America, are especially dangerous because humans have no immunity for battling the new virus, and the ability to create a vaccine and get it on the market takes too much time if the virus is spreading rapidly.
The new flus now found in North American pigs have genes from pig, human and bird viruses. Though rare, it is not impossible for influenza viruses to jump the species barrier, and now, it seems, the North American Swine Flu has done just that.
Prior to now only 18 cases of pure swine flu directly crossing into people have been recorded.
A swine influenza strain has killed more than 80 people in Mexico, and the World Health Organization states that it may be too late to contain the outbreak.
Cases have also been reported in California, Texas, and New York. Eight students in a high school in Queens, New York, have been confirmed by the CDC to be infected with the swine flu. Four cases have been reported in Canada, at this point.
Experts have concern that this potential pandemic could reach proportions not unlike the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918-19, which killed at least 40 million people worldwide, including otherwise healthy young adults.
In Mexico, the fear of a pandemic has Mexicans reacting as mounting panic rises with the belief that Mexico City may be ground zero for a new global epidemic of this new flu. Schools and museums are closed, and Mexico's citizens are staying home for the most part. Some of those willing to brave the outside are wearing surgical masks in hopes to protect themselves from the strange swine flu virus.
On Saturday the World Health Organization (WHO) declared international concern, warning countries around the world to be on alert for unusual flu outbreaks. Several Latin American and Asian countries have already begun screening at airports and other points of entry. So far, no countries other than Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. have reported any cases, but there have been reports of possible new cases from the Far East to Europe.
Global air travel may increase the potential of new cases. Asia, with fresh memories of an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), is being especially efficient in their efforts to intensify health surveillance in all points of entry into their countries.
Today, the United States declared a public health emergency over the swine flu. Twenty cases of the disease have been confirmed in the United States, and though the American officials are urging people not to panic, they are taking great care in ensuring that government resources are being used to diagnose and prevent additional cases.
Though there have been some speculation that the government may use this crisis as an excuse to implement martial law, and increased governmental control over the population, there has been no evidence supporting the theory.
UPDATE: MEXICO - Suspected Swine Flu Death Toll Rises To 103 - Total Infected At 1614 as of 9:30 pm 4/26/2009
-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary
Chasing the Fickle Swine Flu
Students Fall Ill in New York, and Swine Flu Is Likely Cause - New York Times, Donald G. McNeil Jr.
U.S. Declares Public Health Emergency Over Swine Flu - New York Times, Keith Bradsher and Jack Healy
WHO Declares International Concern Over Swine Flu - Yahoo News/Associated Press, Frank Jordans
Fear, anger and fatalism over swine flu in Mexico - Yahoo News/Associated Press, Alexandra Olson
Mexico fights swine flu with 'pandemic potential' - Yahoo News/Assciated Press, Mark Stevenson
Swine flu cases in Calif. worry health officials - Fox News/Associated Press, Mike Stobbe
The Swine Flu Episode and the Fog of Epidemics - CDC.gov/National Institutes of Health, Richard Krause
Swine Flu Map to track outbreaks