Sunday, April 26, 2009

Swine Flu Pandemic Potential

The swine flu outbreak that started in Mexico has spread to several parts of the United States and may also have spread overseas. Swine flu is caused by the H1N1 influenza virus, a mixture of swine, avian, and human viruses. A report from Reuters cited experts saying that the outbreak is probably already widespread and impossible to contain, for these reasons:
  1. This new strain of influenza has shown it can spread easily from person to person.
  2. It has been found in several places and among people who had no known contact, which suggests there is an unseen chain of infection.
  3. This can happen because (a) respiratory illnesses are so common that doctors rarely test patients for flu, and (b) people could have had the swine virus and never known it.
  4. Another factor suggesting that the disease is spreading undetected is that in the United States it has so far only been found in people who had mild illness.
  5. World Health Organization director Dr. Margaret Chan has said the new strain of H1N1 has the potential to become a pandemic strain because it does spread easily and does cause serious disease.
  6. CDC experts note that while it is possible to contain an outbreak of disease that is in one limited area, once it is reported in widespread locations, the spread is impossible to control.