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Swine Flu

The 1918 pandemic outbreak that killed at least 50 million people -That’s more than that taken by the Black Death, and higher than the number killed in World War I.
MIT researchers have explained why two mutations in the H1N1 avian flu virus were critical for viral transmission in humans during the 1918. http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2008/02/mit-researchers.html

We have entered Phase 4 according to the World Health Organization
http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/phase/en/index.html
Phase 4 is characterized by verified human-to-human transmission of an animal or human-animal influenza reassortant virus able to cause “community-level outbreaks.” The ability to cause sustained disease outbreaks in a community marks a significant upwards shift in the risk for a pandemic. Any country that suspects or has verified such an event should urgently consult with WHO so that the situation can be jointly assessed and a decision made by the affected country if implementation of a rapid pandemic containment operation is warranted. Phase 4 indicates a significant increase in risk of a pandemic but does not necessarily mean that a pandemic is a forgone conclusion.

Three essential facts

  1. RNA is extremely error prone: on average, each new virus differs from its parent by at least one nucleotide.
  2. Influenza is the only virus that undergoes true antigenic drift (genetic changes in the virus that occur because of errors in replication.)
  3. Two different viruses can infect a cell at the same time. For instance, if human and an avian flu virus infect a pig cell, they can swap genes. This swap results in a new flu subtype that has both avian and human flu characteristics. This ‘reassortment’ is known as antigenic shift.

A CLOSER LOOK: What’s in a name?

H5N1, H1N1, H3N2… the flu virus designations are interesting and puzzling. But how do scientists come up with these strange names. According to experts, there are 15 different types of hemagglutinin molecules and 9 different types of neuraminidase molecules. Virologists identify Influenza A viruses by their specific hemagglutinin and neuraminidase molecules. In 1980, scientists adopted a general formula for naming Influenza A viruses, HxNy (x represents the type of hemagglutinin molecule and y represents the type of neuraminidase molecule.) http://www.nwabr.org/studentbiotech/winners/studentwork/2006/WB_SC_Rimbakusumo/wworks.html For example, an avian flu virus with hemagglutinin molecule 3 and neuraminidase molecule 2, its name would be H3N2.

The two mechanisms by which pandemic influenza originates. this from 2006 In 1918, the ‘Spanish influenza’ H1N1 virus, closely related to an avian virus, adapted to replicate efficiently in humans. In 1957 and 1968, reassortment events led to, respectively, the ‘Asian influenza’ H2N2 virus and the ‘Hong Kong influenza’ H3N2 virus. The ‘Asian influenza’ H2N2 virus acquired three genetic segments from an avian species (a haemagglutinin (H), a neuraminidase (N) and a polymerase (PB1) gene). The ‘Hong Kong influenza’ H3N2 virus acquired two genetic segments from an avian species (H and PB1). Future pandemic strains could arise through either mechanism.

You can help reduce your chances with face mask….
http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/topics/respirators/disp_part/n95list1.html

If you have the Flu or think you have the flu….STAY YOUR ASS AT HOME.

If You Get Sick

Most healthy people recover from the flu without complications. If you get the flu:

  • Stay home from work or school.
  • Get lots of rest, drink plenty of liquids, and avoid using alcohol and tobacco.
  • There are over-the-counter (OTC) medications to relieve the symptoms of the flu (but never give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms, particularly fever).
  • Remember that serious illness from the flu is more likely in certain groups of people including people 65 and older, pregnant women, people with certain chronic medical conditions and young children.
  • Consult your doctor early on for the best treatment, but also be aware of emergency warning signs that require urgent medical attention.

Emergency Warning Signs

Seek emergency medical care if you or someone you know is having any of following warning signs discussed below.

In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting

Seek emergency medical care if you or someone you know is experiencing any of the signs above. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/takingcare.htm

There are four flu antiviral drugs approved for use in the United States. CDC has issued interim guidance on which antiviral drugs to use during the 2008-09 flu season: The four antiviral drugs are:

  • Oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu ®) is approved to both treat and prevent influenza A and B virus infection in people one year of age and older.
  • Zanamivir (brand name Relenza ®) is approved to treat influenza A and B virus infection in people 7 years and older and to prevent influenza A and B virus infection in people 5 years and older.
  • Amantadine (Symmetrel®, generic) is approved to treat and prevent only influenza A viruses in people older than 1 year.
  • Rimantadine (Flumadine®, generic) is approved to prevent only influenza A virus infection among people older than 1 year. It is approved to treat only influenza A virus infections in people 13 and older

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