Swine Flu – the next Global Pandemic?

Remember the hysteria over bird flu a few years ago?

While the Australian Government quietly stocked up on the country’s supplies of Tamiflu, the threat never really eventuated in Australia. Apparently bird flu still exists in places like Indonesia however the risk of contracting and dying from it are relatively low.

Compare this to the emerging prevalence of swine flu. It appears that the stark contrast between bird flu, is that swine flu can be easily transmitted from person to person.

Surprisingly, the media has been relatively staid in its reporting of swine flu, so far at least, however the risks are considerably higher than the potential threat of bird flu a few years ago.

News.com.au reports that swine flu will more than likely strike Australia if it isn’t here already.

At least 81 people in Mexico are now thought to have died after contracting swine flu, with 20 cases also reported in the US and six in Canada.

There are also suspected cases in New Zealand, France, Spain, and Israel.

The World Health Organization rates the UK and France as the two countries best prepared for an outbreak.

One of Australia’s top influenza experts, virologist Alan Hampson, said the disease could already be in Australia.

“It’s very hard to screen for influenza coming into the country because what we do know is that people can be infected and not show the signs of disease in the early stages, but can be spreading the disease now,” he said.

He said while swine flu didn’t appear to be as unpredictable as avian flu, it was quite different to regular human influenza viruses.

“It is sufficiently different to be able to readily infect people and probably overcome existing immunity to existing H1 viruses,” he said.

The United States has declared a public health emergency after 20 people were diagnosed with the flu – the same strain suspected of killing 81 people in Mexico.

“At this point, a top priority is to ensure that communication is robust and that medical surveillance efforts are fully activated,” said John Brennan, assistant to the president for Homeland Security.

Health and Homeland Security officials announced steps to release some of the country’s stockpiles of anti-flu drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza.

They recommended that local authorities plan for possible school closures and called for people with flu-like symptoms to stay at home to reduce the possibility of transmission.

New Zealand health authorities said they had quarantined a school group of 25 from Auckland after they returned from Mexico on Saturday with flu-like symptoms.

Ten of the students have tested positive for influenza A and are believed “likely” to have contracted swine flu, New Zealand Health Minister Tony Ryall said late yesterday.

France also reports travellers returning from Mexico have reported symptons.

Australia’s chief medical officer, Jim Bishop, last night urged people to be vigilant but not alarmed as authorities around the world rushed to put in place measures to curb the spread of the outbreak.

Mexico assumed new quarantine powers, shut down schools and cancelled Sunday masses, while the US embassy suspended visa-processing services for travel from its neighbour.

On Saturday, the World Health Authority declared the outbreaks a “public health emergency of international concern”, amid fears the disease had spread to 16 Mexican states as well as California, Texas, Kansas and New York City.

The strain is suspected to have infected 1324 and killed up to 81 people in Mexico alone since April 13.

The US has reported 16 confirmed or suspected cases, but no deaths.

The outbreaks do not constitute a pandemic by WHO definitions, but have the potential to evolve into one, leaving airports across the world on alert. In Australia, no cases have been reported.

But Melbourne’s World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre on Influenza – one of four across the globe – is readying itself to receive a sample of the virus, with New Zealand announcing it would send its test results to the group.

Other reports suggest SWINE flu has the potential to become the worst pandemic since the Spanish Influenza – and a vaccine may not be available for 12 months, according to a leading Australian virologist.

According to Professor Greg Tannock, “It’s got all the hallmarks of a big pandemic, and many people have predicted for some time now that a big pandemic was on the way.”

“It was thought that that pandemic would be bird flu.”

“If (swine flu) is going to reach that worst case scenario, there won’t be a vaccine available for it for about 12 months.”

The worst case scenario for Australia would be thousands of healthy young people contracting the virus, killing many.

There are also fears that the current strain of swine flu could evolve to make it much more susceptible to humans.

“It may have already happened,” Professor Tannock said.

But he also said it was possible that the pandemic that so many people feared might not come about.

“It may go nowhere… no one knows. Watch this space.”

While the Australian Government may have ready stockpiles of Tamiflu, it’s worth remembering that during the Bird Flu scare, the Government annoounced that its stocks of the medicine would be primarily used to treat health professionals, military and police personnel as a first priority to ensure law and order could be maintained.

How very reassuring…


71 Responses

  1. Bloody mexican asylum seekers!

  2. Glad that you’re feeling a lot better now joni.

  3. The pigs are coming! The pigs are coming!

    We’re all pork!

  4. Save your own bacon!

  5. Stuff the swine flu, my ex is still out there.

    On a serious note so this virus hits the most healthy of us avoiding the old and young, How is that possible?(probably to early to be sure)

    Also the bird flu in later stages was found to be in birds that didnt die or show signs or illness, There was another elment that made that virus deadly and dont think they ever found out what it was.(thats how i understood it)

  6. SARS…………………….Bird Flu…………………….Now Pig Flu….!

    All the pharmaceutical companies must be rejoicing. They wont let this “crisis” go to waste…………………might be time to raise some fresh equity as its sure to push up their share prices in an otherwise volatile market

  7. Yeah go on…

    You’re all laughing now, but try going to the chemist to get some Tamiflu.

    I was fortunate enough to know a doctor and a pharmacist that gave me a script and the Tamiflu respectively.

    However, this was after weeks of going from chemist to chemist and the story was the same at each one – ‘the Government is stockpiling all supplies that are coming into the country”.

    Maybe I should sell it on ebay?

  8. Since none of the other flu scares became pandemics, and many of these current cases are ‘suspected’, my advice is not to panic.

    (Psst Reb. How much for the Tamiflu?)

  9. Tamiflu…. Isn’t that the sickness that befalls Malcolm Fraser’s wife?

  10. BTW Min, me still sick. 😦

  11. Still got the price on the packet – $98.70

    not cheap!

  12. Quick guards – Isolate him!!!!

  13. I reckon it’s one big porky pie!!

  14. The chooks are getting us back ‘cos we stuffed ’em into cages for years, and now the pigs are gettin’ us back’ ‘cos we been tearing strips off ’em for years and cookin’ ’em with the eggs wot the chooks laid!

    The chooks, they said to the pigs, “They serve up mah unborn babies with strips off yo’ ass, an’ they calls it breakfast!”

    And they both got together and thought up a way to make us all sick and die.

    Not only is the human race doomed, the well documented nutritional benefits of a nicely balanced breakfast, so necessary to ensure a healthy body and a happy mind maintain an active lifestyle, especially among the young, is completely and utterly f**ked up now.

    Stupid pigs.

  15. Our days are numbered.

    Chooks, pigs and cows with guns…the three barnyard animals of the apocalypse!

    Repent now…

  16. Tony, on April 27th, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Were any of those other pandemics, though, the divine retribution of a God who instructed His children that a pig’s nature is to be unclean, and that they were not to handle or eat said pig? 😉

  17. “…………that a pig’s nature is to be unclean,…………”

    Legion, on April 27th, 2009 at 1:27 pm Said:

    No it’s not………………….

    “Have you sen the little piggies in their starch white shirts…………”

    And have you ever checked out a lamb’s arse………………..ever had Ox Tail Soup……………………or Phoenix Claws ?

    Don’t just single out the poor old piggy……..!

  18. Just went to get some more medicine for my man-flu, and the pharmacy does have Tamiflu in stock… cannot tell you where as it is going to be for my own personal use….. bwahahahaha.

    And Ross – you are just too funny.

    And scaper – the “three barnyard animals of the apocalypse” – LMFAO.

  19. Beware!!

  20. This travel alert has just been sent to all staff at my company.

    Locations affected by this alert: Worldwide

    This alert began 04/26/09 21:17 GMT and is scheduled to expire 05/26/09 23:59 GMT.

    Current Situation

    The World Health Organization (WHO) April 25 designated the emergence of H1N1 swine influenza among people in Mexico and the U.S. as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

    It is highly likely that the WHO will soon advance the Pandemic Alert level from the current level of Phase 3 (new influenza virus strain identified, but few human infections) to Phase 5 (human-to-human spread of a new virus into at least two countries.)

    According to the WHO, “declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.”

    Countries investigating suspected cases among people recently returned from Mexico include Israel, Spain, France and the U.K. (Scotland.)

    Background and Analysis:

    The likelihood that a pandemic is emerging is high.

    The involvement of multiple countries across the globe and two large cities – Mexico City and New York – will make containment of the outbreaks difficult or impossible.

    Little is known about the new virus or the nature of infection. Although infections in Mexico have included deaths, infections elsewhere have been relatively mild. It is likely that infected but asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic people helped spread the virus widely before discovery.


    Corporations should activate pandemic plans as appropriate. Consider deferring non-essential travel to Mexico, especially to Mexico City and surrounding states. Reconsider non-essential travel to areas where disease surveillance may be poor and good healthcare difficult to obtain.

    Travelers may carry Tamiflu or Relenza to be used as treatment or to help prevent influenza. Seek prompt medical attention for fever and respiratory symptoms that appear within 10 days of travel to affected areas. Anticipate business closures and possible travel restrictions.

  21. MELBOURNE, April 27 AAP:

    Shares in anti-infective drug developer Biota Holdings Ltd soared in early trading on Monday in the wake of the breakout in swine flu in Mexico and elsewhere.

    At 1156 AEST, Biota shares were 61 cents, or 70.11 per cent, higher at $1.48, with 7.3 million shares changing hands. Biota is the developer of one of two anti-flu drugs – Relenza and Tamiflu – that are being stockpiled by governments around the world in the case of a flu pandemic.

    Biota’s drug, Relenza, is licensed to global pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

    Swine flu has been blamed for dozens of deaths in Mexico, and the United States has declared a public emergency amid signs that the disease has spread into the US.

    Cases have also been confirmed in Canada.

    Suspected cases are also being investigated in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and New Zealand.

  22. Teh Guilty will be punished.

  23. I wouldn’t be worried..Aqua has advised that only the young and healthy are likely to be infected.

  24. With apologies for my previous flippant comment. It seems that the media go so overboard with so many ‘warnings’ that it becomes difficult for the public to be able to tell the difference between something that is serious or what is just another headline.

  25. We’re all going to die!!!

    EVEN a “mild'” swine flu epidemic could lead to the deaths of 1.4 million lives and cost the global economy more than $US330 billion ($463 billion) in lost output.

    The figures, based on economic modelling of an influenza pandemic, also reveal that the most serious “ultra” scenario would cost 142.2 million lives around the world and reduce growth by $US4.4 trillion.

  26. “We’re all going to die!!!”

    That is one thing you can take straight to the bank as a dead-set-certainty.

    No doubt whatsoever. The great equaliser of inevitability.

    Thing is, there is a very good chance that it won’t be from swine flu; although Legion is correct in that the Sky Wizard has warned us through the ages about the tainted cunning of swine.

  27. Perhaps god is punishing Mexico for being next door to a country that elected a coloured man?

    More likely it’s for being next door to a country in which the precious dress in full body armour to play what they loosely call “football”.

    Pestilence will be next.

  28. Tamiflu..obviously brought in by the latest boatload of Sri Lankans asylum seekers.

  29. Even in a pandemic we refer to the economic cost. Our humanity has gone and been replaced by greed for the almighty dollar.

    I wonder whether the world talked about the almighty dollar during the black plague. I only ever read of the lives lost in the black plague, not the dollar cost to the economy.

  30. reb, on April 27th, 2009 at 2:36 pm Said:

    ” the most serious “ultra” scenario would cost 142.2 million lives around the world ………………………..”

    Let’s just hope it restricts itself to the ranks of the unemployed…………….then GFC problem fixed.

    Inside every dark cloud you will find a silver lining

  31. shaneinqld, on April 27th, 2009 at 3:17 pm Said:

    History actually does ascribe a very good economic outcome as a result of the Black Plague

    Due to the truly massive loss of life in Europe there was no longer a need to import food on a massive scale as a great deal of farmland was released from heavy tillage. This resulted in the growth of a greater number of grain crops, animal herds, tomatoes and olive trees.Also due to the much smaller working population in the cities it forced innovation and is seen as one of the chief catalysts for the industrial revolution.

    Economically it had a truly wonderful outcome.

    So Shane next time you are sitting down to a big fed of pasta in a bacon, tomato and olive sauce while you are dressed in clothing (machine made) from China please thank your lucky stars for the agonizing painful death endured by an ulcer and boil covered young 16 year old boy or girl in Rome in the 14th Century

    Bring out your dead………….!

  32. IATW

    Did people at the time of the black plague report like we do now, more concerned about the economic consequences than the loss of life ?

    Whatever benefit may have been realised later, was probably once again reported once our priorities turned from human welfare to the dollar.

  33. Hmmm, I’ve got a strong craving for some crispy skin roast pork from my local Chinese BBQ restaurant. That’s tonight’s dinner sorted, along with a timely dose of revenge (a dish best served cold, apparently, but I’ll have mine piping hot!).

  34. Did people at the time of the black plague report like we do now, more concerned about the economic consequences than the loss of life ?

    shaneinqld, on April 27th, 2009 at 4:07 pm Said:

    Dunno Shane……………..I like to rely on the Black Adder for an authorative take on all things historic


  35. IATW

    LOL Black Adder is great. I watched all of the series on DVD a few weeks ago.

  36. I have a cunning plan…..

  37. I can honestly imagine this. Sales of pork (but not bacon cos that’s not really pig) go down the gurgler in the next week or so.

  38. …. we should all eat turnips.

  39. I can honestly imagine this. Sales of pork (but not bacon cos that’s not really pig) go down the gurgler in the next week or so.

    Min, on April 27th, 2009 at 4:27 pm Said:

    Its a Zionist/Muslim conspiracy………………….!

    They’ve declared Jihad on my Sunday breakfast !

  40. Should I sell or hold my “Hogs Breath Cafe” shares ?.

  41. If you take my advice and eat turnips you will automatically have hogs breath.

  42. Right, sell and buy up big on Turnip futures..

  43. Re eating turnips..and so ye shall joni should partner be in charge of the cooking.

    It’s bad for your cholesterol anyway Walrus.

  44. Min

    Tonights dinner is home-made fried rice and vegetarian satay sticks…. yumyum, non-pigs bum.

  45. It is not a pig, Baldrick, it’s a turnip shaped like a pig that tastes like bacon.

  46. Pork mignons for us tonight.

    I think it is time to write my will…has anyone got a spare postage stamp?

  47. Did you know that Chinese ” Pig Trotters in Ginger’ have Turnips as the main vegetable, (they are great), if this gets out my share portfolio will be in tatters.

  48. Joni..I’ll post emergency rations. The trouble with vegetarian is sometimes one wants something with a bit of ummm, chewiness. With due respect to vegetarians (of which daughter is one) but it just sort of slides down with not much to munch on.

  49. Problem of chewiness solved…mock pork…and a great way to inspire philosophical discussion at any vegetarian gathering.

  50. I like to chew on meat!

    (shut up reb)

  51. As long as it’s munchy joni.

    Have to choof shortly as home made beef wellington awaits.

  52. As part of our MotoGp (boozy) day,we had Tucino (Bot Nem Nuog), very tasty pork , and then I remembered Tucino in Yucat’an ….MEXICO. (Hang on, just sneezed,must do something about that cough)

  53. Simple Recipe for Pork Spare Ribs

    Marinate an intact rack(s) of pork ribs in 350ml of Soy Sauce and a Half Bottle of Extra Hot Piri Piri Sauce preferably overnight.

    1 and a half full racks feeds one person

    Cook in 180 degree oven for 50 minutes in the marinade which will boil off turinng over once to brown

    Serve with a nice riesling

    Result a little bit spicy but not hot……………..Yum

    For even better result cook on a Weber BBQ for around 1 hour 15 minutes in an aluminium tray. Take out of tray 15 minutes from end in order to brown.

  54. Lang Mack

    I missed the MotoGP yesterday as I was at Jerry Springer… will watch the replays during the week.

    But I did catch race one of WSB… great move by the septic on the last lap.

  55. Notice Miglo isnt around when all this starts….

  56. Duck flu?

  57. poor chickens, its the ducks i tell ya(miglo was last seen leaving mexico)

  58. Leaving mexico with these two:

  59. lol, havnt seen them two since i was a kid.

    From everything i know this should of started in Asia or tropics.. shows how much i knew.

    I really need more info, but im looking forward to panicking

  60. Just watching SBS news, Turnip warning “may be worse that than Swine Flu”…

    Joni, the SBK was magic, the 600’s blew me away, was far better that Moto GP, if you saw Anthony Gobert at the Island in ’95or’96 I think, Iv’e got it on tape, this was as good, except that a set back for the Aussies. I have the whole thing on record,if you don’t see it on replays, let me know at my email and I can attend to the matter for you, or I can email you at blogocrats?..

    ( I have a Belkin ke board and this is typical with tying to type, especially seing CaPito L lettes, what do I do, get rid of it and go back to leads or buy a new Belin, I spendmost of the time correcting!1)

  61. I will watch the replay on Fox this week… send the boyf off to study and settle down for some motorcycles.

  62. THE swine flu outbreak has prompted Thailand to set up thermal scanners at Bangkok’s main airport and halt pork imports from Mexico and the United States.

    As you know, I travel to Manila a lot for work and they always scan everyone with thermal cameras and from memory it was at BKK too… so this is not news.

  63. There is a duck around….. run away! Run away!!!!

    (just kidding Migs 😀 )

  64. Where will you run to?

  65. smaller and smaller circles….

  66. Globilization strike 2; you have to love the “no borders” crowd during moments such as this……

  67. But I don’t think we need to worry about this pandemic too much, because there’s one thing to keep in mind when news of a unique flu strain breaks: perspective. As of this writing, 80 people in Mexico have succumbed to swine flu. By comparison, the CDC estimates that 36,000 people in the United States die each year of influenza-related illnesses. And in spite of this, we in the medical community still have a hard time convincing people to get their flu shots. If you’re not afraid of influenza, then you shouldn’t be afraid of the swine flu. Even in the event that someone gets infected with swine flu, we have medications with demonstrated effectiveness against the strain that’s currently active.

  68. It’s all the government’s fault!

    The headlines from the Brisbane Times read:
    Hogg leads MPs into danger zone

    Yes, it’s Senator Hogg (who obviously wasn’t aware of, or is perhaps immune to swine flu) who has led a delegation to Mexico City arriving there yesterday. However, the good news is that the delegation includes Sen Bill Heffernan and Sen Belinda Neal.

  69. Heffernan and Neal eh? I am tempted to say that they’d be no loss to anyone, but that would be unkind.

    BTW, I hear the Libs are passing the hat around to fund Malcolm for a study-tour of Mexico City and its infection control systems.

    If he starts coughing afterwards, at least he oughta get a bounce in the polls with the sympathy vote.

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