Mexico swine flu – global pandemic?

Just when bacon seemed to be making a comeback…. full article

Mexico swine flu deaths spur global epidemic fears

By Mark Stevenson, Associated Press Writer

Mexico City – A unique strain of swine flu is the suspected killer of dozens of people in Mexico, where authorities closed schools, museums, libraries and theaters in the capital on Friday to try to contain an outbreak that has spurred concerns of a global flu epidemic.

The worrisome new virus — which combines genetic material from pigs, birds and humans in a way researchers have not seen before — also sickened at least eight people in Texas and California, though there have been no deaths in the U.S.
“We are very, very concerned,” World Health Organization spokesman Thomas Abraham said. “We have what appears to be a novel virus and it has spread from human to human … It’s all hands on deck at the moment.”

The outbreak caused alarm in Mexico, where more than 1,000 people have been sickened. Residents of the capital donned surgical masks and authorities ordered the most sweeping shutdown of public gathering places in a quarter century. President Felipe Calderon met with his Cabinet Friday to coordinate Mexico’s response.

The WHO was convening an expert panel to consider whether to raise the pandemic alert level or issue travel advisories.
There is no vaccine that specifically protects against swine flu, and it was unclear how much protection current human flu vaccines might offer. A “seed stock” genetically matched to the new swine flu virus has been created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, said Dr. Richard Besser, the agency’s acting director. If the government decides vaccine production is necessary, manufacturers would need that stock to get started.Â

[…] It’s unclear how the eight, who became ill between late March and mid-April, contracted the virus because none were in contact with pigs, which is how people usually catch swine flu. And only a few were in contact with each other.

CDC officials described the virus as having a unique combination of gene segments not seen before in people or pigs. The bug contains human virus, avian virus from North America and pig viruses from North America, Europe and Asia.

Scientists keep a close eye on flu viruses that emerge from pigs. The animals are considered particularly susceptible to both avian and human viruses and a likely place where the kind of genetic reassortment can take place that might lead to a new form of pandemic flu, said Dr. John Treanor, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

The virus may be something completely new, or it may have been around for a while but was only detected now because of improved lab testing and disease surveillance, CDC officials said.

The most notorious flu pandemic is thought to have killed at least 40 million people worldwide in 1918-19. Two other, less deadly flu pandemics struck in 1957 and 1968.

Related websites:
CDC Swine Influenza Flu page
Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health’s Pandemic Flu webpage
US Government’s Pandemic Flu website

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