May 1st, 2009 14:03 EST
Swine Flu Is Diminishing; Scientific Term Now Widely Used
The leading health director for Mexico`s Health Ministry emphasized he is hopeful that the swine flu is now diminishing in virulence as the new confirmed cases in the country dropped off. The World Health Organization disagreed with the director`s opinion due to a lack of credible evidence showing that the worst of the disease is over.
Mexico, the nation most devastated by the illness, has been under ardent criticism for its slowed reaction during the earlier days of the influenza outbreak, that is now a problem throughout the world.
Mexican Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova also said that the death count from the sickness has stabilized in the country. Contrary to his earlier optimism, the health secretary voiced the importance of the next several days in evaluating the strength of the virus.
"The fact that we have a stabilization in the daily numbers, even a drop, makes us optimistic," Cordova told sources with The Associated Press. "Because what we`d expect is geometric or exponential growth. And that hasn`t been the situation. So we think we`re on the right track."
He also said that the country`s emergency measures were beginning to yield positive results. The health ministry asserts that most Mexican citizens treated for confirmed cases of swine flu have been released, and with the emergency medical program still screening and medicating patients extensively, the death rate is expected to fall dramatically.
Cordova said: "Without a doubt, once we study all the cases we`re going to see some where there is no evidence of justification for linking them to this virus. I think, given the evolution this is having, given the full recovery we are seeing with treatment, there is reason to be calmer, there`s reason to think that this can be solved quickly and well. We simply have a new virus with what is fortunately a low mortality rate... so I think this problem will be resolved favorably."
By Thursday, Mexico`s Health Ministry had reported a death toll upwards of 168 people reputedly connected to swine flu, but only confirmed 12 of that count. Spokepeople denied answering how many more were still open to further swine flu testing.
To the immediate north, the U.S. reported a small increase in the number of confirmed cases, now up to 130, after numerous schools from coast-to-coast cancelled class as a direct result of the blossoming viral scare. About 300 schools were shut down on Thursday alone, with Texas claiming close to 200 of the voluntary closings.
The American Red Cross is now preparing a staff of 60 million volunteers to be sent to various locations around the globe to stymie the spread of infection.
The Obama administration has now declared that one of its own, an aide to the secretary of energy, is now being treated for swine flu following preparing the president`s trip to Mexico.
The aide, who remains anonymous, to Energy Secretary Steven Chu supposedly contracted the flu sometime while planning President Barack Obama`s state visit to Mexico. White House correspondents assured that the aide wasn`t on board Air Force One and never came in close contact with the President.
In a coordinated effort with the U.S. to produce enough vaccines, health ministers around Europe swore to step up legislation allowing drug companies to engineer an effective anti-viral medication quicker. But U.S. health authorities mentioned that a pre-tested vaccine may not be available to the public until fall at the earliest.
The World Health Organization`s Assistant-Director and head flu epidemiologist, seemed wary of the absence of sufficient evidence pointing toward an end to the virus`s potency, and cautioned Mexican Health likewise.
The director, Dr. Keiji Fukada, said: "For things to go up and down in a country is expected. If it didn`t do that would be very unusual. Hopefully we`ll see more of the data of what`s going on there. But I expect even in Mexico you will see a mixed picture."
Mexico has issued a five-day partial shutdown of public events including schools to start on Friday in the effort to halt the virus`s spread. In addition to the shutdown of all but the most necessary government activities, the Mexican government pressed that most businesses should close up shop and that all citizens should stay indoors and avoid public interaction as much as possible.
After announcing their decision to raise the world health alert to Phase 5 on Wednesday, Fukada for the WHO declared that there is no indications the disease merited another alert hike. Phase 6 is the highest measurement used by the organization to differentiate Phase 5, which is the lesser transmission of a growing pandemic in at least two countries, from Phase 6, which is a full-scale pandemic that has affected a minimum of two regions of the world and is inclined to spread rapidly.
Tensions cooled slightly over the lethal nature of the virus, as only one person died from swine flu outside Mexico. The U.S. declared that a Mexican boy has been the only flu-related death in the nation, and while new cases have been confirmed elsewhere, no deaths are suspected to be from the H1N1 influenza virus.
The Obama presidency didn`t help its cause in dispelling panic over the illness either.
Vice President Joe Biden aroused suspicions about the virus`s threat when he said in an interview with NBC that he would most certainly advise his relatives to avoid traveling by air or taking the subway due to the alarming new pathogen that has infected over 100 Americans thus far.
But to trace over the Vice President`s misstep, the Obama administration announced that Biden erred when he really wanted to say that all Americans should refrain from traveling to Mexico in most circumstances. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood even contradicted the statement by saying "It is safe to fly. There is no reason to cancel flights."
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama recommended Americans take the standard precautions of washing their hands, calling off from work in you`re feeling ill, keeping your children home of they are showing signs of illness, and discouraging travel if they are sick.
Presently, the United States is importing more stockpiles of anti-flu vaccines to suppress the outbreak of new cases, but health experts conclude that the drugs may be completely ineffective toward the enigmatic virus, and another surge of new patients may crop up even with the medical reinforcements.
An inoculation to the new virus is currently in the beginning stages of development, as scientists now have viable samples of the strain to implement in a medication, that by all estimates, may take several more months of testing before it`s released to the public.
Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Craig Vanderwagen said: "I don`t want anybody to have false expectations. The science is challenging here."
He reported that the 600 million doses necessary for U.S. consumption is "achievable" by fall after the six months of preliminary testing crucial to engineering the drug.
Switzerland and the Netherlands are the newest countries to announce confirmed cases of swine flu, joining Canada, New Zealand, Britain, Germany, Spain, Israel, and Austria as countries worldwide including verified instances of the infection.
The epicenter of Mexico City is currently in the thralls of an economic gridlock. City officials claim that traffic in the city`s most populated streets has decreased substantially, and the Attorney General reports that crime city-wide is down one-third from one week ago. Environmentalists also cite that the lessened automobile traffic in the city has contributed to lower smog levels: something rarely seen except for on state recognized holidays.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon affirmed that the government would decide the severity of the outbreak in the country and ramp up or cut back national efforts during the five-day limited shutdown. The Mexican holidays, Labor Day and Cinco de Mayo, and the upcoming weekend fall in the five-day term which is predicted to aid in stopping mass public activity.
"Swine flu", a term well warranted for its defining traits, has become a sort of stigma toward the sale and distribution of pork products even though health officials swear there`s no link between the flu`s transmission and consuming pork. In fact, the world health authorities, and now President Barack Obama refers to the new influenza strain as its scientific term: H1N1 influenza, denoting the subtype within the Type A spectrum of the pathogen.
Going by the technical term Type A H1N1 subtype influenza, the swine flu combines genetic material from pig, avian, and human sources whose inaccessible nature makes it amazingly difficult for most human immune systems to combat. Its symptoms are remarkably similar to a textbook strain, marked by cough, sore throat, fever and other related conditions. Transmission of the illness also resembles typical flu in that it normally spreads through airborne particles of the virus caused by sneezing and coughing and human-to-human contact.
In any given year, approximately 36,000 people on average succumb to the flu in the United States alone.