Two words you don’t like to see together: “Global pandemic.” But that’s what officials in Washington are now talking about. From the New York Times:
“Responding to what some health officials feared could be the leading edge of a global pandemic emerging from Mexico, American health officials declared a public health emergency on Sunday as 20 cas.
Other nations imposed travel bans or made plans to quarantine air travelers as confirmed cases also appeared in Mexico and Canada and suspect cases emerged elsewhere.
Top global flu experts struggled to predict how dangerous the new A (H1N1) swine flu strain would be as it became clear that they had too little information about Mexico’s outbreak — in particular how many cases had occurred in what is thought to be a month before the outbreak was detected, and whether the virus was mutating to be more lethal, or less.
As a news conference in Washington, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called the emergency declaration “standard operating procedure,” and said she would rather call it a “declaration of emergency preparedness.”
“It’s like declaring one for a hurricane,” she said. “It means we can release funds and take other measures. The hurricane may not actually hit.”
So far, the version that has hit here in the USA is pretty mild. But south of the border the news is more ominous.
The Washington Post reports from Mexico:
“The anxiety over the virus has vastly altered the rhythm of Mexico City, with millions of people staying home and many of those who venture out doing so wearing masks. On Sunday, Catholic Masses across the city were canceled. One of the most popular Mexican professional soccer teams played a game in an empty stadium that can seat more than 100,000 people. Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said he might have to shut down all public transportation if the crisis worsens.
The question of who contracts and ultimately dies from this virus has become a matter of central concern in Mexico. And the answers that are beginning to emerge as the death toll rises have been ominous. Relatively young adults, presumably among the population’s most healthy, have been the first to succumb. Sunday afternoon, Mexico placed the death toll at 86, and a Health Ministry official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said all the dead were ages 25 to 50. The ministry later raised the toll to 103….
The high proportion of young adults among the fatalities is one of several mysteries about this virus. The same pattern emerged during the 1918-1919 Spanish influenza epidemic, which killed at least 50 million people, and it remains unexplained in that case as well. “
That’s something else you don’t like to see: comparisons to 1918-19 Spanish flu.