This afternoon, the WHO declaredthat the swine flu outbreak in Mexico and the U.S. is a health emergency of international concern.
Reuters has put together a list of estimates of the economics costs that may be incurred if swine flu becomes a full out pandemic.
- The World Bank estimated in 2008 that a flu pandemic could cost $3 trillion and result in a nearly 5 percent drop in world gross domestic product. The World Bank has estimated that more than 70 million people could dieworldwide in a severe pandemic.
Australian independent think-tank Lowy Institute for International Policy estimated in 2006 that in the worst-case scenario, a flu pandemic could wipe $4.4 trillion off global economic output.
Two reports in the United States in 2005 estimated that a flu pandemic could cause a serious recession of the U.S. economy, with immediate costs of between $500 billion and $675 billion.
One report, from the Congressional Budget Office, said hospitals would have difficulty controlling infection and might become sources for spreading the illness.
A second report by New Jersey-based WBB Securities LLC predicted a one-year economic loss of $488 billion and a permanent economic loss of $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy.
SARS in 2003 disrupted travel, trade and the workplace and cost the Asia Pacific region $40 billion. It lasted for six months, killing 775 of the 8,000 people it infected in 25 countriBetween the autumn of 1918 and the spring of 1919, 548,452 people died of swine flu in the US.
The Mexican Flu and You
In the past 24 hours I've received dozens of e-mails from SurvivalBlog readers about the emerging Mexican Flu. Some news stories have included cryptic comments from heath officials, implying that the mechanism of infection makes this particular virus "very difficult to contain." This leads me to conclude that those infected have a long latency period during which they are infectious, yet, they do not display frank symptoms. This does not bode well for any hopes of containing the spread of the virus.
Then we hear a CDC official stating: "The swine flu virus contains four different gene segments representing both North American swine and avian influenza, human flu and a Eurasian swine flu." That strikes we as something very peculiar.
The disease is respiratory, and has one strong similarity to the 1918 Spanish Flu: "The majority were young adults between 25 and 45 years old," said one official under the condition of anonymity. Since, young and healthy people with strong immune systems are the most likely to succumb, this might indicate that the biggest killer is a cytokene storm--a collapse caused by the human immune system's over-reaction to a pathogen.
I strongly recommend that everyone reading this take the time to re-read my background article on flu self-quarantine and other precautions: Protecting Your Family From an Influenza Pandemic. The details that I give there are quite important. Pay special attention to my discussion of the shortage of hospital ventilators. If anyone in your family is immunosuppressed, consider yourselves on alert. Make your final preparations to hunker down, immediately.
In the next few days, there is a good chance of wholesale panic, including some well-publicized "runs" --probably first for hand sanitizer and face masks, and soon after for bottled water and groceries. Plan on it.
PDATE: The BBC News web page Mexico flu: Your experiences has some updates posted from individuals in Mexico City
To summarize, here are some key quotes from a recent article:
"This outbreak is particularly worrisome because deaths have happened in at least four different regions of Mexico, and because the victims have not been vulnerable infants and elderly.
"The most notorious flu pandemic, thought to have killed at least 40 million people worldwide in 1918-19, also first struck otherwise healthy young adults."
"But it may be too late to contain the outbreak, given how widespread the known cases are. If the confirmed deaths are the first signs of a pandemic, then cases are probably incubating around the world by now, said Dr. Michael Osterholm, a pandemic flu expert at the University of Minnesota.
"No vaccine specifically protects against swine flu, and it is unclear how much protection current human flu vaccines might offer."
Current statistics show a less than 10% lethality rate, but of course the first wave of flu victims are getting access to the best medical care available. If the contagion spreads, sheer numbers will quickly overwhelm hospital facilities--particularly the number of mechanical ventilators available. So the lethality rate may rise, even if there is not a viral mutation.
Here are the latest headlines on the flu, as well as some background pieces. I'll post more links, as they become available.
Mexico Races to Stop Deadly Flu Virus
Spanish Flu Survivors Remember
Some Facts About Past Flu Pandemics
WHO ready with antivirals to combat swine flu
Possible Swine Flu Outbreak at NYC Prep School
California Expects To Find More New Flu Cases
Swine Flu Jitters Sparks Sell-Off In US Hogs
Swine Flu Resources
Most Mexico fatal flu victims aged between 25-45
I’m posting here a copy of an email I sent this morning to the ComFood listservregarding the current outbreak of H1N1 swine influenza virus. If you have further information or links, please add to the comments.
This morning I’ve been reading about the swine flu outbreak in Mexico which now appears to be crossing the US border, with 5 confirmed cases in CA and 2 in TX. In Mexico, 68 people have died.
According to the swine flu timeline put together by a company called Veratect, who evidently map infection disease events for clients like the WHO & CDC:
Residents [of La Gloria, Perote Municipality, Veracruz State, Mexico] believed the outbreak had been caused by contamination from pig breeding farms located in the area. They believed that the farms, operated by Granjas Carroll, polluted the atmosphere and local water bodies, which in turn led to the disease outbreak. According to residents, the company denied responsibility for the outbreak and attributed the cases to ‘flu.’ However, a municipal health official stated that preliminary investigations indicated that the disease vector was a type of fly that reproduces in pig waste and that the outbreak was linked to the pig farms. It was unclear whether health officials had identified a suspected pathogen responsible for this outbreak.
Granjas Carroll is a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods. According to the Smithfield Foodswebsite, Granjas Carroll produced 950,000 hogs in fiscal 2008.
So now it looks like Big Ag is not only responsible for poisoning people directly with contaminated foods, but also for unleashing a deadly pandemic.
My question for the list — is this even theoretically possible with small-scale organic hog farming?
Here’s the CDC’s statement about H1N1 swine influenza virus:http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/?s_cid=tw_epr_55