Saturday, April 25, 2009

Great, Just Great: Need More to Worry About?

As if we don't have enough to worry about already. Let me count the ways...

The entire global economy is tanking while millions are losing their jobs and their homes. Oh yeah, here's a comforting thought, did you know your individual share of government debt is projected to top $30,000 by the end of the year? Your last 401K statement made you cry only half as hard as you did the last time you bought groceries. I could go on and on - and on.

Today I read that there is a potential pandemic knocking at the back door. Too bad the back door is not only unlocked it's flung wide open and has been for years. There is a new a virulent strain of the swine flu spreading through Mexico. (read about it here) Thousands have been infected and dozens have died.

The unusual thing is that unlike most flu outbreaks this one is killing young adults and adults instead of the elderly and very young children. That's interesting and unusual. Interesting because the last time a true pandemic swept the world in the World War I era it was also healthy adults that succumbed. The death rate for 15 to 34-year-olds by influenza was 20 times higher than any other flu outbreak. Somewhere between 20 and 40 million people died worldwide. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. Known as "Spanish Flu" or "La Grippe" the influenza of 1918-1919 was a global disaster. Could we be headed for something similar?

On the other hand is this another Peter and the wolf scenario? According to the article cited earlier, scientists have long been concerned that a new flu virus could launch a worldwide pandemic of a killer disease. A new virus could evolve when different flu viruses infect a pig, a person or a bird, mingling their genetic material. The resulting hybrid could spread quickly because people would have no natural defenses against it. Interestingly enough this is exactly what has happened in Mexico.

Right now flu experts were concerned but not alarmed about the latest outbreak. Also from the article these words of comfort such as it is... The CDC says two flu drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza, seem effective against the new strain. Roche, the maker of Tamiflu, said the company is prepared to immediately deploy a stockpile of the drug if requested. However both drugs have to be administered early to have any efficacy.

Bottom line: if you feel like you might be getting the flu visit the doctor and ask about these drugs - especially if you are between 15 to 34 years old.