Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fluby Tuesday

(Photo: provenance unknown)

Current WHO pandemic phase: 5
Laboratory confirmed cases worldwide: 1490 cases in 21 countries
Laboratory confirmed deaths worldwide: 30 in two countries
Laboratory confirmed cases in US: 403
Laboratory confirmed deaths in US: 1

Yesterday I said that the exponential trend suggested 1500 confirmed cases worldwide today and 2500 tomorrow. We hit 1490 today and I've revised the trend estimate for tomorrow to 2400 or so, based upon a more careful examination of the graph.

(Visualization: Evan Robinson, Group News Blog; Data: WHO | Influenza A(H1N1))

It's not up in the CDC or WHO totals yet, but several reports are out there about a second death in Texas. The second victim is apparently an elderly woman with chronic health issues from Cameron County. The "chronic health issues" part is probably meant to reassure us that A(H1N1) isn't substantially more lethal than a typical winter flu -- which appears to be true. The emphasis on Cameron County, which is the state's southernmost county, may provide eliminationists with fodder for the "evil brown people bringing dangerous diseases to the US" fantasies they are already experiencing. But there's pretty clear evidence that illegal immigration is not driving the spread of A(H1N1), because we're not seeing additional cases in the border states:
There are 403 cases of swine flu in the U.S., but spread of the influenza appears to have no link to the U.S.-Mexico border.

The H1N1 strain started hitting Mexico City, prompting business and school closures as well as calls to curtail travel and establish border restrictions between the U.S. and Mexico.

But current H1N1 numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control do not show a correlation between proximity to Mexico and U.S. cases.

Among Mexican border states, Arizona has 17 cases, California 49, Texas 41 and New Mexico 1. That totals 108 H1N1 cases in the border quartet.

By comparison, New York has 90 confirmed flu cases, Illinois another 82, Oregon 15 and Delaware 20, according to the CDC. Those four geographically diverse states total 207 cases.

Arizona and Maricopa County public health officials say they are hoping H1N1 strain is not as severe as first feared.

WHO is "not yet seeing community-level transmission of the new H1N1 flu virus in Europe", and until there is sustained human-to-human transmission somewhere besides North America, we're still dodging phase 6 on the pandemic phase scale.

Rear Admiral Steven K. Galson, acting Surgeon-General of the US, admits that the currently reported levels of infection in the US are not something to worry too terribly much about. But he adds that "[i]t is not possible to predict what the virus will look like in the fall because of the potential for mutation." Regardless of the outcome of this particular outbreak, we do need to be wary of an additional, more lethal outbreak in the regular flu season.