Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Of the swine flu

A pandemic (from the Greek pan - all + demos - people) is an epidemic of infectious disease that spreads through populations across a large region; for instance a continent, or even worldwide.

GENEVA (AP) – The World Health Organization has raised its tally of confirmed human cases of swine flu to 5,251 in 30 countries, with 61 people dead from the disease.
Flashback to the deadly "Spanish flu", 1918-1919.

First identified early in March 1918 in US troops training at Camp Funston, Kansas. By October 1918, it had spread to become a world-wide pandemic on all continents, and eventually infected an estimated one third of the world's population (or approx 500 million persons). Unusually deadly and virulent, it ended nearly as quickly as it began, vanishing completely within 18 months. In six months, some 50 million were dead;some estimates put the total of those killed worldwide at over twice that number. An estimated 17 million died in India, 675,000 in the United States and 200,000 in the UK.

The virus was recently reconstructed by scientists at the CDC studying remains preserved by the Alaskan permafrost. They identified it as a type of influenza A H1N1 virus.

The "Mexican swine flu", is a strain of infuenza A H1N1.

Strangely in the case of the "Spanish flu", the pandemic mostly killed young adults, with 99% of pandemic influenza deaths occurring in people under 65, and more than half in young adults 20 to 40 years old. It appears that the strong antibodies of the young, healthy, adult people actually worked against them, as the stronger antibodies reacted in a haywire manner causing a more deleterious effect compared to the very young or older age brackets. Young, healthy, adult people...

This actually reminds me of the the tenth and final plague of Egypt that finally forced the Pharaoh to submit. The plague targeted only the death of all Egyptian first-born. No one escaped, from the lowest servant to Pharaoh's own first-born son, including the first-born of livestock. Except of course those who had lamb's blood on the door posts. Could have been the biblical equivalent of a particularly virulent and deadly strain of H1N1. Of course this is just pure speculation on my part.

"and that you may recount to your son and grandson how ruthlessly I dealt with the Egyptians and what signs I wrought among them, so that you may know that I am the LORD."
(Exodus 10:2)

Anyway, today looks like a fine day. Perhaps I'll walk the dog later. Drink a couple of beers. Eat some junk food. Read a good book. Hug the family...


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