Sunday, April 26, 2009

Influenza Hits Again

Update (April 29th): One dead in Texas. Suspected case in Israel. There is no reason to panic, I'm very serious. The "human" influenza killed much more people this year and nobody was that anxious about it.

Update (April 28th): 19 suspected cases in Asutralia. Passengers on a plane from New Zealand with a suspected case are being traced. "Swine flu" is probably the wrong name given the virus, but who cares anyway.

Update (April 28th): 2000 cases in Mexico with 149 deaths. Two new cases in Scotland. The flu shot doesn't work. Wash your hands.

Update(April 27th): Two more in Kansas, total of 28 cases in New York. The WHO raises the pandemic alert for swine flu. Obama: "Swine flu cases not a cause for alarm". I agree with Obama , at least for now.

UPDATE (April 27th) : Six new cases in Canada. One suspected cases in Spain.
the good news: two anti-viral medications work against the virus. Don't take them unless you have symptoms.

UPDATE (April 26th): the number of deaths increased to 103 in Mexico. New cases have been reported in Ohio and New York.

Two events took place last week that reminded the world how aggressive and fatal influenza can be. In Egypt, two women died from the avian (bird) influenza infection. Meanwhile in Mexico, 68 people died from another type of influenza virus, called the swine (pig) influenza.

The virus is smarter than humans. It has the ability to change its genetic component in a very unpredictable way that allows it to become more aggressive, more easily transmissible, and capable of infecting those who were vaccinated with a flu shot.

Ninety years ago, during the famous 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic that had nothing to do with Spain, more than 5% of the world population died from influenza. Most of those who died were young and healthy. Very recently and after a lot of controversy, scientists went back and isolated that 1918 virus and infected mice with it, and found that the vigorous immune response of the infected victims caused their death. That explained why the more healthy people died from the infection.

The worrisome thing about the swine influenza infection is that it can be transmitted from human to human. There are currently 8 cases in the US, six in California and two in Texas, and only one of those has been to Mexico and none of them had contacts with pigs.

Influenza can spread on a large scale over the world just like the previous outbreaks did. It has the potential of infecting a large number of people especially in this age where thousands of international flights occur everyday. What's very promising is that vaccines and anti-viral medications can possibly control the spread of the virus before it kills 5% of the world population again.


Unknown said...

This is just scary!!!

jaraad said...

In my research I studied self-organizing communities (e.g., ant colony and beehive). Basically, primitive individual members of a self-organizing community collaborate among themselves to build a sophisticated intelligent community. I studied in more detail the ant colony for my artificial intelligent project. Those ants are really smart. This intelligent behavior exists in this influenza virus. The more they cooperate among themselves the stronger and more intelligent they become.

Huba said...

It is interesting that in Jordan there is little buzz about the whole thing. The little TV I saw on the topic was on CNN, I guess western media just likes to exaggerate things...