27 April 2009

Couldn't get past the pig

Worrying news from Mexico about a flu outbreak, at a time when the global economy is already so weak. Bureaucrats and reporters should try to be alert when they do their jobs. Full essay.


The said...

I remember there was the Nipah virus in Malaysia some years ago in the area where the virus got its name. The Nipah virus also affected pigs - is the Mexican swine flu a different strain, or similar, or a mutated strain?

Do'ya speak Singlish? said...

The Health Ministry's response makes sense.

As you mentioned, this is a new virus (H1N1), hence the right response is NOT KNOWN. But, they think that the virus is related to swine flu so they push for the that response instead. Until more information is forthcoming, which could take a while, not much else can be done. But at least taking some precautions may have saved a number of lives.

Houston, Texas

Chee Wai Lee said...

According to the BBC, the current swine flu is a variation of the same strain (H1N1) as human flu. The concern now is that this variation has apparently developed the ability to be passed between humans, hence the UN's effort in monitoring any possible pandemic.

After you asked the rhetorical question "What's wrong?", I noticed the ST article fails to mention the human-human transmission of this strain.

Other special properties of this variation mentioned in the BBC include the fact that it seems to impact the young hardest (as opposed to the elderly for typical human flu).

Anonymous said...

When I read your title "Could'nt get past the pig", I thought you were referring to a particular member of the new Aware exco! LMAO! Anyway, let's see if we could get past her this Saturday. :)

Robert L said...

Thank you for this article, Yawning Bread. It is even more important to look to the future.

The WHO raised the Pandemic Alert from Phase 3 to Phase 4. While this is strictly accurate, it completely fails to address the immediate future. By sheer logic, WHO should have added an early warning alert that it will be Phase 5 within the next week.

Here's how I based my judgement. First, it is established that the new virus is human-to-human. That puts it in Phase 4. Then the cases found in USA, is there any doubt that they are carried from Mexico? Surely, we can see that these cases in USA will also spread from human-to-human. The answer will appear within one week's time. There is not a chance that the USA cases will not spread, the only question is how much the spread can be contained. So if two countries have human-to-human spread, that puts it into Phase 5.

If I can see that, I cannot accept that WHO cannot see it.

The final stage is Phase 6, when virus spread to another country in a different region. So far, Mexico and USA are still in the same region. Of those other cases in UK, Israel and New Zealand, how long do you expect we will reach Phase 6?

The virus is said to spread even before victims show symptoms of flu. So can anyone doubt that it has not already spread in those other countries? If it has spread in just one of those other countries, then we will have reached Phase 6.

The way I see it, reaching Phase 6 is a relentless certainty. So, whatever action we take on reaching Phase 6, we would be wise to take those actions now. The sooner we act, the less fatalities we face.

For sure, there are certain actions we cannot take until WHO announces Phase 6, being bound by international law. However, we as individuals can do whatever we are free to do.

If you explore the BBC website, doctors in Mexico have written in to reveal that the sickness started more than two weeks ago. And people have been spreading the virus even before they show symptoms of flu.

SIA has daily flights to Los Angeles, which is only 200km from Mexico, that's about the distance from here to Kuala Lumpur. It would be fair to assume that the new virus is already transmitted into the Singapore population.

For those with children attending school, it would be prudent to keep them at home for the next week, before WHO officially announces Phase 5 and 6. At most, if I am wrong, the children only lose one week of lessons. But if I am right, there is a fatality rate of 20% if they catch the virus. Readers who are accustomed to assess risks and rewards will know what choice to make.

So far, I have been giving comments based on what I know. Now comes my question, which I hope other readers can tell me. From memory, I thought that those who recovered from SARS still bear the damages to their internal organs. Is this correct?

Then, depending on the answer to my question, we may have to anticipate that even those who do not die from the new virus might have permanent organ damage.

Finally, coming back to my advice on keeping your children out of school for one week, the reality is that they will lose only 2 or 3 schooldays, depending on how soon Yawning Bread puts up my post and it gets read by others. By 5 May, I will be proven wrong if WHO does not announce Phase 5 or 6 and I would be very pleased at that outcome.

Robert L said...

I'm sorry to be a nuisance and post another comment after the one above (28 Apr), but I realise that I've made a mistake and it would be dishonest not to correct what I wrote.

I said that Los Angeles is 200km from Mexico - now while this is strictly not wrong, I've just noticed that the flu is mainly concentrated in Mexico City, which looks like 20 times the distance to Los Angeles more than from the the Mexico border. So the risk is 20 times less and I would not want to single out flights from Los Angeles anymore than any other flights entering Singapore.