Swine flu update: Europe and the bottom of the world

For those of you looking to follow new cases (most of them suspected at this point, not confirmed), a great resource is HealthMap. Reports are popping up of possible infections worldwide: Scotland, Spain, Australia, and New Zealand. Certainly additional possible cases will be showing up over the coming days as well.

One thing I've seen mentioned (including here in the comments) is a question about the unlikelihood of a flu outbreak in Mexico in late April. Isn't influenza a cold-weather bug? Well, yes and no. Influenza circulates year-round at a low level, but it lasts longer in the environment in colder temperatures with lower humidity, meaning more people can potentially be infected by each infected person, leading to our seasonal outbreaks. However, recall that in 1918 the first cases began in winter/spring 1918, and then it came back with a vengeance beginning in August, and really taking off by October. Additionally, we essentially have no barriers to worldwide spread, and there are already potential cases in New Zealand and Australia (where winter is setting in).

Again, we don't know right now whether this will die out or become the next pandemic, but the spring timing of this doesn't necessarily limit the virus' potential.

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In temperate regions, flu virus circulates almost all year around. Some countries have two seasonal peaks: one in winter and one in summer. So yeah, something to do with temperature _and_ humidity.

A couple of seasonality comments. Mexico city is at high altitude and low lattitude, which means its weather is relatively mild year round. If this really is the start of the next pandemic, the timing is fortunate, as the season less favorable for spread in the northern hemisphere is just beginning, and that should buy precious time. I suspect the greater social distancing associated with school summer break is important as well.

As if they didn't have enough on their plate, I just heard Mexico City had a mag 5.8 quake!

I think Swine Flu is over estimated because it has made kids in the uk sheffield cover their faces and be scared.

By Imogen Southern (not verified) on 28 Apr 2009 #permalink


In the US we are hearing that experts expect this flu strain to die out during the summer, but reappear in the winter months (normal flu season). But how about the countries that are about to enter winter? Will Africa, Australia, and South America experience a really bad flu season as this flu is emerging just as they entered their fall season? What do the experts say about traveling to countries that are about to enter their traditional flu season?

Also, any reason this has popped up after the normal northern hemisphere flu season?

Egypt has begun the slaughter of their pigs.

Just how does swine flu work? If there is a pandemic among humans, would there also be a pandemic among pigs? Would the presumably new virus from Mexico make its way into the pig population worldwide, thus putting at risk those, especially in the poorer countries who live in close proximity with their livestock?

By Paul Heikkila (not verified) on 29 Apr 2009 #permalink

AP reports Egypt is killing their pigs:

Just how would pandemic swine flu affect pig populations worldwide? Would this presumably new swine flu work its way backwards into pig populations worldwide? In many poorer countries pigs aren't housed in factory settings such as those in Veracruz, but instead live side by side with the humans who raise them. Would the pigs be a threat to the humans, and/or vice versa?

By Paul Heikkila (not verified) on 29 Apr 2009 #permalink

My family has non-refundable airline tickets to Mexico. We though about delaying our June 20th trip to sometime in July, but the tickets would be double than what we payed for our June tickets. We need to go over the summer because my 12 year old is in public school. I don't want to lose my tickets nor do I want to pay an additional $2000. for the "date change". Do you think if I can get my family perscriptions for Tamiful to prevent the swine ful we should go in June?