Friday, May 1, 2009

Much Ado About Nothing? W.H.O. Says Most People With Swine Flu Recover Without Medical Attention

Americans love media dramas. Because Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears have recently kept their clothes on in public and avoided binge-drinking while driving, some other story will have to satisfy the public's hunger for drama. Looks like the pig flu will have to do.

Earlier this week, CNN ran a story which placed the ballyhooed swine flu in perspective. While one person has died of the swine flu in the U.S. this year, 16,000 poor souls -- whose families must feel cheated -- have lost their lives to the "regular" flu. Also, an average of 36,000 people die annually from the no-frills flu every year in the U.S.

The World Health Organization has created a swine flu webpage, which has a lot of information regarding the virus. Although W.H.O. says that a pandemic will likely occur, it also has placed the virus in context. Most readers will be shocked to learn, for example, that despite all of the hoopla and fear surrounding the virus, most people who contracted the virus in the past recovered without medical attention!

Here's the scoop from W.H.O.:

What medicines are available for treatment?

There are two classes of such medicines, 1) adamantanes (amantadine and remantadine), and 2) inhibitors of influenza neuraminidase (oseltamivir and zanamivir).

Most of the previously reported swine influenza cases recovered fully from the disease without requiring medical attention and without antiviral medicines. . . .

The viruses obtained from the recent human cases with swine influenza in the United States are sensitive to oselatmivir and zanamivir but resistant to amantadine and remantadine.
In addition to the W.H.O. website, the L.A. Times reports that scientists who have examined the virus predict that, barring a dangerous mutation, the swine flu will not be as deadly as originally expected. The information continues to evolve, and things could change. But the current state of knowledge does not seem to warrant the media overkill.

Basically, the public should relax, but remain aware. Young and healthy people will probably recover without treatment -- as they typically do. The groups at-risk for contracting or dying from the flu include the elderly, children, and people with compromised immune systems. I am sure they would get antiviral treatment, given the lack of a vaccine. W.H.O is pretty trustworthy -- far more than a revenue-starved media.

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