A level headed look at Swine (H1N1) Flu

by John Frenaye on April 30, 2009

The media has created a frenzy regarding the Swine Flu; some of it is certainly warranted. Many government agencies are operating in CYA mode, and to a degree that will add to the panic. Throw in Vice President Joe Biden telling the world (Thursday morning’s Today Show) that he would not allow his children on a plane or subway and you can see why people are panicked and confused.

As a travel professional, our firm deals with an Annapolis, MD based company called iJET Intelligent Risk Systems. The sole purpose of this company is to offer advice to clients to protect their investments (property and people) while traveling anywhere in the world–including the US.

The company is rife with former intelligence operatives, medical experts, transportation experts, security experts and multi-lingual experts who have lived and do live in every corner of the world. iJET’s objective is not to create media buzz. They are in it to offer solid and actionable advice for the people who pay for their service.

So, what does a media impartial company have to say about the Swine Flu? Their latest update was last night (another is expected later today) and here’s their take on the situation:

Current Situation (This alert began 04/29/09 20:45 GMT and is scheduled to expire 05/04/09 23:59 GMT)
U.S. health authorities confirmed 94 H1N1 swine flu infections in 11 states, including one death, as of April 29. A Mexican toddler died of swine flu in Houston, Texas; he became ill approximately four days after entering the U.S.

In order to begin emergency measures and seek federal funding, the governors of California, Texas and New York have made disaster or emergency declarations. Schools are closed in affected areas of these states and Texas has postponed all school athletic and academic competitions until after May 11. Some schools in other states, including Illinois and Minnesota, have closed in response to “probable” cases among students.

A review of the first 47 U.S. cases found the median age of infected persons was 16 years, and 81 percent were aged less than 18 years. Only three people had traveled to Mexico, and in 85 percent of the cases, doctors found no link to travel or another confirmed case. Five of the individuals required hospitalization. The lack of a history of travel or exposure to pigs in the vast majority of infected people indicates that the swine flu virus is being spread from person-to-person within some U.S. communities.

Authorities are concerned about the increasing number of swine flu cases in Queens, N.Y. Approximately 50 cases have been confirmed in the borough, but officials say that hundreds of additional students in two schools might be infected. Additional suspected cases have been reported in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan, as well as in Rochester, Rockland, Suffolk and Cortland counties.

Confirmed cases in the U.S. as of April 29:

State Area Numbers of Confirmed Infections
California Imperial 5
Sacramento 1
San Diego 7
San Bernardino 1
Indiana Northern Indiana 1
Kansas Dickinson 2
New York Queens
Brooklyn
51
Ohio Lorain 1
Texas Dallas, Guadalupe County and Houston 16 cases, 1 death
Arizona Maricopa County 1
Massachusetts Lowell 2
Michigan Livingston County
Ottawa County (probable, but confirmed by CDC)
1
Livingston woman recently returned from Texas
Nevada Washoe County 1
Maine York County 1
Kennebec County 1

Background and Analysis
The strain of human swine influenza (H1N1) currently circulating is a new, or novel, influenza virus. Since this is a new strain, people will likely have no natural immunity to protect against the virus. International experts are concerned that this strain could spread quickly.

Doctors have not yet determined the severity of the disease. It is reassuring that few people outside of Mexico have required hospitalization, but epidemiologists are at the very early stages of learning about the virus. The total number of infected persons in Mexico probably far exceeds the number of cases reported. If that is true, then the case fatality rate associated with swine flu infections would be far less than the current 7 percent being reported in Mexico. In the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, the case fatality rate was approximately 2 percent.

Laboratory tests indicate that two antivirals, Tamiflu and Relenza, could be used to treat or prevent swine flu. The medications are most effective if taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. After 48 hours, they may not be useful.

Advice
Individuals returning from affected areas should monitor their health for seven days. Promptly contact a physician for sudden onset of high fever, cough, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and malaise. If you are in outbreak areas, wash hands frequently and try to avoid crowds.

For more check out Business Travel Coalition’s page devoted to news about Swine Flu and the travel industry.

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  • Elizabeth Karrh Scott

    Timely information. Thank you

  • Joy Ann Kelley Nussbaum

    I graduated HS with an Elizabeth Karrh who married a Scott.
    Carbon Hill High School 1947
    Just wondering if you are that person.

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