pandemic flu

CDC's Media Briefing Update on 2009 H1N1 Flu

I'm beginning what may prove to be an irregular but -- I hope to make -- semi-frequent series of postings related to the pandemic H1N1 (AH1N1) flu virus. Its resurgence has been expected with the traditional flu season and, in reality, it never disappeared despite less popular media attention to it.

To be clear, I am no medical or public health expert but I am trained in allied areas.

So, I hope to help sift what's important from a sure-to-be increasing tide of often complex information. See Flu.gov for the Federal homepage on 'the flu'.

One reason I've thought to do this is because the pandemic AH1N1 strain behaves differently from what most think of as the 'common' or even 'seasonal flu'.

Another concern I have is of the readiness of our largely private health care system for unexpected numbers of seriously ill patients.

Every year, health authorities track flu cases in an attempt to pick the best bets from among strains circulating in world populations for which is most likely to threaten us during the 'typical flu season'. The three best-bet strains are then used to prepare the annual seasonal flu vaccine to help protect against what is usually the greater risk to people who are pregnant, may be infirm from other disorders, are elderly, or are very young.

The novel H1N1 strain behaves differently in a number of ways. But one concern is with the number of healthy young and young adults who have no known risk factors but end up hospitalized, on respirators, and worse.

Now it's possible that the problem is in identifying hidden underlying conditions. But, according to the CDC discussion of deaths among school children, one-third apparently had no discernible underlying condition.

Today's briefing discusses that recent reports don't show increased virulence of the strain among current cases, nor greater resistance to antiviral medications. I was happy to hear this as it addresses other concerns I have. Whew!

Today's example of my MO may prove to be common, a simple pointer to sources such as the current media briefing by the CDC. You'll find select excerpts of that below but I recommend reading the original in order to catch some of the important nuances raised during the question and answer period.