Official: A/H1N1 flu not more deadly than regular seasonal influenza
LOS ANGELES, May 1- Los Angeles County's chief health officer said on Friday that A/H1N1 flu, also known as swine flu, does not appear to be any more deadly than regular seasonal influenza.
"The current situation is certainly one of concern, but not alarm," said Los Angeles County Director of Public Health Jonathan Fielding.
"At this point, what we have looks very similar in severity to seasonal influenza," Fielding said.
He called the A/H1N1 flu "basically a mild and moderate disease, predominately."
"I don't think that this strain, based on the limited knowledge we have to date, is more concerning than other strains, and I'm particularly happy to see a pattern of illness which is not worse than the seasonal influenza," he said.
Fielding said the potential for the disease to become a "pandemic" should not overly frighten residents, pointing out that the term describes the range of the disease rather than its severity.
But Fielding warned that the potential does exist for the virus to mutate, possibly into something more deadly.
"Flu viruses can mutate," he said. "Whether that'll make it worse or better we don't know whether it'll change to a significant degree, we don't know. That's why we're monitoring the situation carefully, as is the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the World Health Organization."
The timing of the outbreak is somewhat fortuitous for the United States, he said, pointing out that as the weather gets hotter the spread of flu tends to slacken.
Will wearing a face mask protect you from the flu?
The Public Health Agency of Canada asked a panel of medical experts for guidance on how flu is transmitted and how best to protect against infection.
People don't The report was produced by the Council of Canadian Academies, chaired by Dr. Donald Low, microbiologist in chief at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
One of the questions the panel considered was whether face masks would offer protection in the event of a pandemic.
The verdict: yes, to an extent.
need mask unless they are continuoulsy within a meter of someone coughing and sneezing who has H1N1(swine), or has symptons and are unsure if they have this virus, this would be an emerg nurse or health care worker, in this instance a regular surgical mask would be fine for a brief conversation, turning away when they cough
A surgical mask offers little or no protection to the health care worker -or anyone else in the area of a person sneezing/coughing as they do not form a tight seal and are limited in their ability to keep aerosolized (the portion of the sneeze/cough that others can inhale and potentially lead to illness) fractions contained at the source.
Respirators such as the N95 are designed and certified (NIOSH) to filter out fractions that can enter the human airway - such as the influenza virus.
At this time, there is no need to wear either when in public. However it is prudent for persons to wear N95 (or better ie: P100) respirator when closer to suspect cases
Why was or is it deadlier in Mexico?
It's also possible that A/H1N1 began life in Mexico especially virulent — that country has apparently been grappling with the virus for weeks longer than the U.S. has — and evolved to become less dangerous by the time it crossed the border. That would not be an unusual evolutionary device, since viruses that are too deadly cannot survive if they kill off their host before being given a chance to spread. "It's fairly common in epidemics to see a trade-off between the ability to cause severe death and transmissibility," says Steven Kleiboeker, a virologist and the chief scientific officer for ViraCor Laboratories. The A/H1N1 virus may be attenuating itself as it spreads from person to person, becoming easier to catch but less dangerous. (Read "CDC Readies Swine-Flu Vaccine.")
The WHO, however, says that so far the virus appears to have stayed relatively stable during the chains of transmission, so it may not be mutating much. Still, the virus's current relatively weak state does not guarantee that it won't return later, much more virulent — which is exactly what happened in the 1918 flu pandemic that killed at least 50 million people worldwide. As the flu season comes to an end in the northern hemisphere, it may lead to a natural petering out of new swine-flu cases in the U.S. But the strain may continue to circulate aggressively in the southern hemisphere, which is just now entering its flu season, and then return to the north next winter.
Any conclusions now will be premature, because we still don't know what we're looking at. Experts predict we'll eventually begin to see fewer new cases in Mexico, as lab results separate real swine-flu infections from normal respiratory disease. Meanwhile, the anticipation of more cases and deaths in the U.S. has already been begun to be borne out. As the CDC's Besser himself has pointed out, swine flu is going to be a marathon, not a sprint — and we've only just gotten started.