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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The H1N1 Virus: Obama's Next Test

Let me have a thought experiment about the H1N1 virus, better known as the swine virus. I've heard that Mexico is struggling containing this virus. They are also in the middle of a drug war. In this war, dozens if not hundreds often die daily. So many are dying that bodies are often not discovered for days if not weeks on some more rare occasions. Well, imagine if this virus were to mutate with a dead body. That sounds like the sort of nightmare scenario that virus like AIDS are created.

Here's another thought experiment. Imagine if significant numbers of government buildings were shut down for weeks if not months at a time. For instance, the Mexican government has announced that all non essential government workers are now indefinitely laid off.

Mexico's president told citizens on Wednesday to stay home for a five-day partial shutdown of the economy, after the World Health Organization raised its alert level and said a swine flu pandemic was imminent.

In his first televised address since the crisis erupted last week, President Felipe Calderon told Mexicans to stay home with their families. The country will suspend
non-essential work and services, including some government ministries, from May

What sort of effect would it have if significant numbers of buildings, both private and public, had to be shut down indefinitely. If there are major disruptions for any significant amount of time, the pain to our economy at this moment would be devastating.

According to the CDC, this virus can spread very quickly.

Human-to-human transmission of swine flu can also occur. This is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu occurs in people, which is mainly person-to-person transmission through coughing or sneezing of people infected with the influenza virus. People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

So, once out, this can spread very quickly.

It's clear that a virus like this mishandled could not only have an impact medically but economically. Mishandled, this virus could still be doing damage for years if not decades. Furthermore, all of this needs to be done without creating a panic. As such, in many ways, this is turning out to be a real test for the Obama administration. If he were to be able to contain the damage, he would nipping a potentially serious problem in the bud. If he mishandles it,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Most viri die if not in a suitable host after a few minutes. Some are able to live for an hour or two outside a host.

Once in a host, the virus either kills the host or it is defeated by the host's antibodies. Either event will typically transpire within a week or so.

Once a host's antibodies start to win the fight against the virus, the virus is typically weakened to the point that it is no longer transmissible to other hosts.

Assuming a typical flu virus, the contagious period is in the first few days of infection.

If everyone were quarantined in their own homes for a week, the virus would be unable to propogate, and would be extinguished (or at least its transmissibility would be vastly diminished).

I don't think this is really as big a deal as it would be if we lacked infrastructure such as public sewage, indoor plumbing, trash pickup, refrigeration, and an absurd amount of soaps and hand sanitizers.

I'm still of the opinion that the thing most likely to cause widespread injury or death from this pandemic is going to be panic, not the virus itself. VP Biden isn't helping with his alarmist comments.