Swine Influenza Update from a Nurse: Virus, Panic, Precautions, and End of the World Websites.

Given the amount of attention and anxiety around "swine flu," the H1N1 virus, I thought it might be helpful to ask a health care professional with experience in this area to write a guest post for Boing Boing. My friend Stefanie Fletcher kindly obliged. She is a registered nurse who spends a fair amount of time in Mexico, and is involved with efforts to work with Mexican President Felipe Calderon's cabinet to import vaccines for H1N1 from the US.

Stephanie wrote this guest essay with information about the spread of the disease, precautions to take (or not take), and some observations about nutball "ZOMG-WERE-ALL-GONNA-DIE-ITS-THE-END-OF-THE-WORLD" rapture websites. - XJ

Swine Influenza Update
Stefanie Fletcher, RN ( stefletcher AT earthlink DOT net)

April 26, 2009
6:00 p.m. PST

The outbreak of the H1N1 strain of swine influenza in Mexico calls for caution, but not alarm.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that, people in the U.S. infected with the virus have either traveled to Mexico recently or have been exposed to someone returning from the country. The CDC originally thought the virus was a straightforward swine flu virus. However after closer analysis determined it is a new virus containing a mixture of swine, human and avian viruses.

The U.S. government to declare a public health emergency, reporting that there have been 20 confirmed cases of swine flu in the United States as of noon today. However, there have been no swine flu related deaths in the U.S. and only one patient has been hospitalized. U.S. outbreaks have occurred in Texas, California, New York, and Kansas.

Dr. Jose A. Cordova, Mexico's health secretary, announced that as of Sunday, 81 deaths in Mexico had been deemed "likely linked" to swine flu. . Of the 1,324 patients who were hospitalized with flu-like symptoms, 929 have been treated and released according to Mexican President Felipé Calderon. Dr. Cordova has requested closure of bars, museums, theaters, and churches in Mexico City.

The United States has not issued any travel warnings or restrictions. However, the Canadian government issued a warning to travelers because the public health agency was "tracking clusters of severe respiratory illness with deaths in Mexico." Meanwhile, American, United, and Continental Airlines have all declared they would waive change fees for travelers with tickets to effected areas in Mexico.

What is unique is that the virus, having made the "jump" from animals to humans, is now being transmitted via direct human-to-human contact.

Keep reading after the jump for more on how this has developed so far, who's at risk, how to protect yourself if you are at risk, and websites celebrating swine influenza's outbreak as a harbinger of the apocalypse.

Stephanie continues:
Keiji Fukuda, acting assistant general for health, security and environment at the World Health Organization, stated, "it's quite possible for this virus to evolve and become more dangerous to people."

People infected with the H1N1 strain will initially suffer generalized flu like symptoms, such as:

* Fever
* Muscle and joint pain
* Sore throat
* Malaise
* Cough
* Difficulty breathing

This strain of flu may progress to a serious respiratory illness within about five days.

Traveling to Mexico? Make sure your vaccinations are up to date, pay special attention to hand washing especially after coughing or sneezing, covering coughs and sneezes and stay home if you're feeling sick. The CDC also suggests you pay attention to local government announcements and follow any issued public health guidelines on your trip. Watch for any signs and symptoms of the flu upon returning home.

Reliable sources of information regarding the H1N1 influenza virus are:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The World Health Organization. And in Spanish, Secretaria de Salud del gobierno de Mexico.

Meanwhile, the UNRELIABLE sources are in full bloom. Rightwing and survivalist commentary ranges from decrying the swine flu as a bio-terror attack (Terror Pigs?) to celebrating this as the beginning of the Rapture.

www.raptureready.com and www.sodahead.com are the two with pretty clear blogs/Q&A portions dealing with the swine flu and end of the world issues.

UPDATE, April 27, 930am PT: First, per the CDC this morning - there is no reason to get a flu shot if you do not have symptoms. The current attenuated virus vaccines will not protect you - so the mask, hand washing, being aware of surroundings/people w/ symptoms is the only prevention - or not traveling (for now) to Mexico. There is a mid-to moderately high chance this will reach Guatemala this week - but it is really hard to tell - depends on the numbers of people coming/going from Mexico.

Also, at least to Mexico - the State Dept. will be issuing a Travel Advisory for Mexico - all "non essential" travel to be halted....

email questions or comments to: stefletcher AT earthlink DOT net


  1. Why do so many people seem to think the plural of “virus” is “virii”? Even if it took the Latin ending – which it doesn’t – it would be “viri”.

    What’s the real epidemic, swine ‘flu or improper use of English?

  2. I still think that Randall gave the best advice:
    “Bad flu epidemics can hit young adults hardest because they provoke their powerful immune systems into overreaction, so to stay healthy spend the next few weeks drunk and sleep-deprived to keep yours suppressed.”

  3. Its good to see that someone is taking a sane approach. I worry a little bit, but I live with an ER nurse whose hospital services a high population of Mexicans, but I think that most people have no cause for alarm.

  4. Also what’s up with the extra-danger for young people with strong immune systems? Is it true that I should make myself sleep deprived and hung over, like xkcd says?

  5. ¿have you read Jack London’s “The Scarlet Plague”? It’s very accurate. Well, it is not, but it’s about a world-connected plague. And it’s short.

  6. The article someone REALLY ought to do is how to trace alarmist headlines about various “epidemics” and see how far you have to jump to get to drug company PR firms.
    It’s so aggravating to see how worked up the press gets about each new flu outbreak EVERY YEAR.

    Until one of these “pandemics” kills more people than rush hour traffic on our nations highways, I think I’ll remain in the “unconcerned” column.

  7. Katherine Ann Porter’s book “Pale Horse, Pale Rider” describes the 1918 flu pandemic. The lead character is semi-autobiographical in that the author was a flu victim.

  8. Got word straight from a friend who works in the healt deparment, that the extraoficial death toll is 1800 as far as saturday afternoon. There’s a serious media blockage by the goverment. I cant post his or her name as it would have a serious information leak.

    Live from Mexico City, God help us all…

  9. Questions…

    Not to contradict you but a recent NYT article and wikipedia’s coverage say the most recent flu shots had an H1N1 component so they might be effective against the current outbreak… tests are pending to confirm that. How likely is that? The nasal mist non-shot thing was a live virus thing, that could not have had a H1N1 component correct?

    On epidemic control, is this phase of a new outbreak with over 1600 possibly infected, 65 confirmed, an already human transmissible virus, is this a point where we can stop an outbreak? What can we all do to help that?

    We have had no deaths in the USA, what is the treatment to prevent a Cytokine storm? Obviously people here have suggested drinking and exhaustion semi-seriously. I’m sure you have more effective measures in the hospital. Could you describe them?

    If we do get an outbreak what is the point of hiding from it? You get it, you live or you die. Eventually you are going to need immunity and living through it is one method that requires no societal intervention.

  10. @ ChunkyMonkeyBrain – yes. You are absolutely right.
    Case in point – this article on Boing Boing.

    I had my suspicions, however it has taken a while for empirical evidence to confirm these.

    We live in a world where technology (air travel, BoingBoing) has facilitated the dispersal of (previously) localised events, like ‘flu outbreaks or asenine commentary on a global scale.

    The sum total of this global reach is in actual fact not as severe as one might expect – it just serves to cloud temporarily an issue and disrupt mildly the intelligent discourse which occurs irrespective of the poor signal:noise ratio of commentary of ‘tech culture journalists’.

    Unfortunately, the product of the above mentioned signal:noise ratio, combined with modern delivery mechanisms mean that for at least six hours, the kind of article on which these comments follow will always exist, yet fortunately like quantum particles their lifespan is mercifully finite.

    Nq lrf, Krv Wnqv vf n vqvbg bs gr vtrfg bqr.

    1. uncompressed,

      If you can convince me that you can make a comment without being rude, I’ll reinstate your account.

  11. “What’s the real epidemic, swine ‘flu or improper use of English?”

    The real epidemic is grammar authoritarian douches, or is the plural to that douchi?

  12. “it is a new virus containing a mixture of swine, human and avian viruses.”

    I can’t wait until we start hearing about the “flying pig flu” pandemic of 2009!


    What exactly is your problem with this article, which attempts to inform and encourage discussion of the current “swine flu” situation in Mexico and elsewhere?

    It’s not being alarmist – in fact, it’s deliberately attempting to counter the panic-mongering of mainstream media and some websites.

    Plus, your syntax is nigh incomprehensible. Don’t be afraid to split an infinitive.

  14. I’m caught between thinking “Bah, stupid panic-mongering media” and “Bloody hell, 150-something deaths in a few days…”.

  15. @14: “it is a new virus containing a mixture of swine, human and avian viruses.”
    I can’t wait until we start hearing about the “flying pig flu” pandemic of 2009!

    That’s nothing compared to man-bear-pig flu.

  16. Wish I could edit my post. My first question is misinformative. The Authors source, the CDC, is a better, more primary, more up-to-date source. They say the flu shot conveys no immunity I’ll take them at their word.

  17. Not to make light of the situation, but didn’t 50 million die in the 1918 – 1919 flu pandemic?

    I’m not saying that we should rest on our laurels, but it seems to me that the screaming headlines don’t really help anybody.

    Plus, I live in Scotland and I see now that 2 cases have been confirmed here. This means, of course, they have to find inarticulate Scottish bloke at the airport to give his thoughts on the crisis.

  18. We are collectively having our chain yanked, but I haven’t yet figured out in which direction.

    On one hand, we have worldwide caution alerts being issued over 100 deaths. As mentioned above, that’s a pretty small number when compared to the humdrum statistics like traffic deaths. On the other hand, there are just 20 confirmed cases in the US, of which 2 (according to BBC World Service just this afternoon) have been hospitalized, and all have either recovered or are responding well to treatment for their mild symptoms.

    So…this thing is either far, far worse than they’re letting on — or they’re crying wolf over something that in developed countries is just a badass case of the flu.

    Problem is…which one is it? I just get the feeling that we’re being misled.

  19. the 1918 flu killed millions BECAUSE no one got the word out in a timely way. Though to be fair, they didn’t understand what the word really was either. Panic doesn’t help but obviously silence is worse.

    You can’t do dick about a flu pandemic in practical terms beyond get people to stay home, wash their damned hands and not be outrageously stupid. Of course current flu shots (which are based on the latest AVAILABLE strain to work with in a lab and mass produce after identifying) won’t help with a mutant.

    We have a good chance of handling this bug, full blown pandemic or not, with minimum casualties. People have a DUTY to educate themselves and any who try to dismiss a real and valid threat as so much fooferaw need too be put up against a wall.

  20. Fantastic to get reports in directly from the front line, so to say, but Boing Boing editors would do well to correct the somewhat agricultural (ahem) grammar of the reporter.

    Yeah, when the rapture, singularity, apocalypse and all that happens, I’ll be the one asking whether it was spelled correctly ;-)

  21. “the 1918 flu killed millions BECAUSE no one got the word out in a timely way. Though to be fair, they didn’t understand what the word really was either. Panic doesn’t help but obviously silence is worse.”

    Agreed with this. The fact that we have such a global, intense response so early is the reason huge pandemics with millions dead don’t happen (fingers crossed) anymore. One relatively recent exception is HIV. If it had been taken super seriously back when there were only 150 confirmed cases (instead of “just” a disease for homosexuals, Africans, and junkies), I can’t help but wonder how things might have gone differently.

  22. Got word straight from a friend who works in the healt deparment, that the extraoficial death toll is 1800 as far as saturday afternoon. There’s a serious media blockage by the goverment. I cant post his or her name as it would have a serious information leak.

    Yes, I’ve read The Stand too.

  23. I like my daughter’s spin on this.

    “I guess God decided to lay off of Africa for a change.”

  24. Here in Mexico, what I can see so far is how the information about this whole situation is handled, mainly through media (from newspapers up to Twitter) which relies on partial information, repeating it all over the weekend, the same information that was released on Thursday night. Just a few moments ago, the Health Minister, mentioned for the first time, I guess, the type of virus, we are dealing with, and at least reporters were not so interested in that type of data. That is one of the main differences I have seen, between international reports and local news, the former do mention and state a remarkable difference between the swine flu (at least statements from the WHO do) and other type of similar virus.

    Numbers being reported are so different from media to media here, they are not truly understanding the correct amount of cases (so far around 20 confirmed by the CDC and another lab at Winnipeg). It is a dangerous situation indeed and hope the measures taken are the correct ones, but effort is still need to be done in order to come out with the full information.

    I’ve heard many comments about not trusting the info from the government, well, I guess until it is not fully explained, there will not be anything to trust over them or the media. At least international reports are kind of more accurate and carry more important information, I guess international effort to contempt and monitor any cases at their countries has been quite effective as was stated on previous comments about the intense response.

  25. Grammar stomping aside, these survivalist/rapture ready people really are just the same bunch:

    They’re both isolationists

    They both think they’re ‘tuned in’ to things we normals don’t get because we’re a)stupid b)lazy c)evil, all three.

    They’re both anti-progress (they would rather prepare for destruction, then take steps together to avert it).

    They’re both reveling in anticipation of terrifying destruction because it’ll prove them right (more important then the lives lost)

    This list could probably be expanded, and isn’t all that original, but there’s something to the prevalence of these types that seems more pandemic then the flu.

  26. @Taukan

    I think there is nothing wrong with reporting that there is a very real threat from a new strain of flu. Of course not.

    My problem is with the way that the media treats medical stories. Surely there is a halfway between “zOMG WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!1111” and “Nothing to see here folks, move on?”

    The current tone of reporting is a gross over-reaction, surely? There are worse and far more destructive health problems throughout the world which only get intermittent coverage from the press (malaria, anyone?)

    Also, a leetle harsh to suggest the execution of anybody that feels that perhaps the media tends towards unproductive hysteria.

  27. hokay, time to don the Supreme Elitist Funny Hat:

    1. most people get their news and info from TV
    2. most people ain’t bright ( see #1)
    3. when telling most people the house is on fire, a sitcom with laugh track works better than a clear, carrying voice saying “the house is on fire”.

    As for shooting twits who sneer “nothing’s wrong man” when there sure as hell IS something wrong, no shortage of new twits if we shoot a few old ones.

  28. This actually reminds me of the big media kerfuffle over the “Terrifying Rash of Freeway Shootings in LA” of a few years ago. Seems there were seven or eight cars shot up on the freeways over a one-week period. Alarm! Alarm! All the local TV outlets dispatched their reporters to stand on freeway overpasses, microphones in hand, looking grim and trying to get Angelenos trapped at red lights to say that they were “real a-skeered” of being shot in the head.

    About a week later, the cops & sheriffs had a press conference to address this dangerous menace to life & limb. At the conference, they showed the stats & explained that not only was the supposed crazy violent shooting spree on the freeways not happening – the number of cars being shot was actually a little lower than average.

    Point being, people die of the flu all the time. Healthy people get infections, their immune systems freak out and they croak.

    Now – a case can be made that perhaps we *should* be paying a lot more attention to the steady drip-drip-drip of threats that operate below our alert threshhold. That we should change the things that we worry about.

    But this way is so much more fun, ain’t it? If, by fun, I mean “good for cable TV ratings and sales of cases of bottled water, canned food & beef jerky.”

  29. Dave: go look up “Pandemic”. Then look up “Spanish Lady”. Then look up “young and healthy”.

    Why did World War One end?

  30. I think that I may be *basically* agreeing with you Taukan…

    Unfortunately, in my working life, I have to come into contact with more people that I’d really like. This leads me to make the observation that in the general population the prevalance of stupidity is fairly high.

    I am fully aware that far too much of peoples view of the world is gleaned from one or two highly subjective news sources.

    This is what is irritating about frothing news coverage. Perhaps a better example of how damaging it could be is the media picking up and running with the “MMR jab causes autism” research. That, was ultimately shown to be a false hypothesis and the Dr involved has since (possibly unfairly) been censured. Point is, MMR innoculation dropped fairly significantly which can have a real and dangerous effect on public health, based on the fear of something that might possibly happen.

    I know this isn’t exactly the same. Flu, after all, does kill (and every year) but saying that the media has a duff sense of proportion is not the same thing as being a twit who deserves to be shot. (Although kudos for use of the word “twit.”)

  31. So lets sum it up:

    People die in third world country.
    ZERO people died in US.
    ZERO people died in Europe.
    Media panics.

    How is that different from every day? Hundreds of people die weekly in Africa from simple diarrhea.

    Wake me up when someone dies from it in US.

  32. I hafto say that what freaks me out the most is how every single kindergarden, school, highschool and university in Mexico closed down for a week. Every single one. That’s kinda scary…

  33. some must pick up the shepherd’s crook, Red.

    Aye, easy now Rasz, easy. There we go, come on now, the manger’s full and night’s afallin.

  34. Some of us live within 100 miles of the Mexican border and interact on a daily basis with people who cross the border regularly.

    Barn door? Cow already gone? Hello?

  35. It’s important to keep this in perspective from a worldwide view. This man-bird-pig virus outbreak has affected a vanishingly small percentage of the population in all the countries that have reported cases. Seventy-three confirmed cases out of six billion people. An unconfirmed 2,000 cases were reported in Mexico City, roughly 0.00009% of the population -in that city alone- twenty confirmed cases in the U.S. or 0.0000000667% of the population. But, as we view this through the lens of the popular media, CNN, FAUX, and MSNBC, one could come to the conclusion that this virus is ‘sweeping’ the face of the globe at an alarming rate. Commonsense should prevail here and most people will realize that this simply isn’t the case.

    What we all need is some more ‘econo-pocy-clypse’ news to bring us back to center. But the media is bored by all of that as it provides no immediate body count to scare the wee out of the unknowing public. Next week should provide some relief on the pandemic front as new jobless figures are released for April.

    Anyway, cheer yourself up with some Unicorns.

  36. numbers: as I understand the initially reported numbers: current outbreak mortality: 7 %.
    Spanish Flu mortality: 2.5%

    Now, sample size matters, but only an imbecile would dismiss this outbreak, based on 7%.

  37. @ 44 Raz

    “The greatest failing of humanity is its failure to understand the exponential function.”

    By the time you notice people around you dying it’s already too late. That is why one should be concerned, though not panic just yet. This isn’t the time to be macho.

    Things one should do:

    Avoid close contact.
    Stay home when you are sick.
    Cover your mouth and nose.
    Clean your hands.
    Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
    Practice other good health habits.


  38. On the one hand, what caused the disproportional imapct of the Spanish Flu was that the mortality was concentrated in the 20-40 age bracket.

    On the other hand, society generally didn’t notice as much because young men in that age bracket were also being fed through the WWI meatgrinder at the time.

    On the gripping hand, the confirmed cases in Mexico City are also clustered in the 20-50 age bracket… For folks interested in WHY a disease can be more dangerous to the healthy and strong than to the weak, look up Cytokyne Storm on Wikipedia. The layman’s digest description is “Your immune system over-reacts and kills you, sort of like how an allergic reaction is your immune system over-reacting and killing you.”

  39. Dear Russia, Your efforts to stop the import of bacon from Mexico are in vain: No one can resist the power of the Pork-Side.

  40. Takuan:

    the 1918 flu killed millions BECAUSE no one got the word out in a timely way. Though to be fair, they didn’t understand what the word really was either. Panic doesn’t help but obviously silence is worse.

    There are a number of reasons for the 1918 flu pandemic’s high body count. “Failing to get the word out” comes after “it was an exceptionally nasty strain of flu” and “WWI was in full swing at the time.”

    Flu season happens every year. Every so often we get a strain of influenza that’s nastier than usual, so that year the numbers go up. The 1918 strain was exceptionally nasty. It hit so hard and fast that it threw its victims’ own immune systems into overdrive, which resulted in their lungs filling with fluid. Basically, they drowned. So that’s one reason.

    Next big reason: troop mobilization, and the mass enlistment of the civilian population into the war effort. Usually, when someone gets sick, they go home and go to bed. This is good. It minimizes their contact with others. But in 1918, Woodrow Wilson and his ilk were pushing hard for an all-out war effort, both by newly enlisted soldiers and by the civilian population in general. When the flu hit, national and local governments refused to acknowledge that it was a problem, or to change their priorities and fight influenza as well as war.

    When you’re calling up massive numbers of new enlistees from all over the country, and concentrating them in huge overcrowded training camps, someone’s bound to bring the infection with them. The flu raged through military camps. Soldiers spread it to the civilian population, and deploying troops spread it overseas. On the home front, arrangements for the civilian war effort did not acknowledge the problem. Organizers went on traveling, making face-to-face contact, and promoting large public events like parades and rallies. The rate of infection exploded.

    Now we get to the part where “failing to get the word out” is the next biggest reason. You know that point in a classic epidemic where the bodies are literally stacking up because people are dying too fast for the authorities to deal with the corpses, plus they’ve run out of coffins, plus there aren’t enough able-bodied workers to dig the graves? When that was happening in the United States, government officials were still lying and covering up, lest admitting that they were in the middle of a mortal epidemic “hurt the war effort.”

    As for the current pro-epidemic:

    There are some good, well-informed websites out there. For starters, try the CDC.

    For advice about coping with the chaotic news situation, I recommend Tips for an Apocalypse. As it says, in an emergency, people will anxiously swap information and speculation. Keep your ear to the ground but stay calm, because you’re going to be hearing all kinds of nonsense before this is over.

  41. >”By the time you notice people around you dying
    >it’s already too late. That is why one should be
    >concerned, though not panic just yet. This isn’t
    >the time to be macho.”

    ah heard that one before during H5N1
    look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H5N1 under Confirmed human cases and mortality rate of avian influenza (H5N1)

    ZERO deaths in first world countries.

    For some reason mortality rate in Mexico is ~7.5%, yet all 20 US patients recovered with no problems.
    How common is ordinary flu in Mexico? Probably as common as malaria in US.

  42. As someone who works for the CDC, let me just say that what’s annoying about sensationalist news coverage is precisely that it causes intelligent and naturally skeptical people to conclude they need not worry.

    The world freaked out over bird flu and temporarily gave a shit about pandemic disease, and then it didn’t happen within the summer low-ratings season and the public decided to roll their eyes at all us good-meaning epidemiologists saying “seriously, though; we have to prepare for pandemic flu.”

    This particular strain may turn out to be a disease du jour, or it might end up being trouble. Either way, make no mistake about it: pandemic flu is an eventuality, not a possibility. So, don’t panic; of course. There’s no reason to, and panic is seldom helpful. But writing this stuff off is paramount foolishness.

    To be clear, I do not work even in the same state as those working on the swine flu. I work here in Chicago on immunization data, which–due to a similar gall felt for the medical establishment–became very interesting when people decided MMR vaccines caused autism. Fucking morons. Ostriching the dangers of this is just as stupid as over-reacting. And the labs in Chicago, Atlanta and Winnipeg are all taking a moderate yet attentive outlook those sighing at apopletic media are looking for.

    1. A few years ago, locals somewhere in the Indian Ocean tried to dismantle the Tsunami warning system because there had been a false alarm. Survival – ur doin it rong.

  43. Here’s what I don’t get, 20,000 to 30,000 people die of the flu in the united states each year. So far about 180 people have died from this outbreak in two or three days. Lets say it was two days:

    90*365= 32850

    Yeah it’s on the high end, but it doesn’t seem that different from normal.

    Mexico has a little more than a third of the population of the united states, so you could triple that number I suppose, but their hospitals aren’t as modern as ours for the most part, so that would have to be factored in.

  44. ‘Dude, what’re you doing with your face against this wall?’
    ‘Man, this dude named Takuan shoved me against it & said don’t move . .’
    ‘Dude, why don’t you just . . I never noticed before . . You have a nice butt . .’
    ‘Wut?! Hey, man, you can’t do that!!!! . . .Omigawd,you can! Don’t . . Stop . . Don’t . . Stop
    . .don’tstopdon’tstopdon’tstop etc.

  45. @Takuan “some must pick up the shepherd’s crook, Red.”

    I think a little bit of shepherd’s crook would be just the thing to make the swine flu a hit! Cytokine storm AND hemorrhaging would surely raise the man-bird-pig flu to the level of pants-crapping panic machinery that seems to be currently lacking in the pants-crapping panic that’s going on.

    I am an armchair microbiologist (thank Bob I’m not responsible for actually helping anyone) and while I am definitely interested in what’s going on, I’m not certain it’s time for me to head back to church yet. I’ve had the “talk” with a few of my friends about it and if they’re not just poo-poo’ing it away then they’re running around with their heads cut off completely ignoring the fact that nobody has gotten up and yelled “everybody scream and run around in circles” yet.

  46. #1 FUNKY DEREK-be a stickler for accuracy,it is
    particularily important,if you have any input with kiddywinkies.My kids and grandchildren still remember this little bit of doggerel
    When a word ends with ‘us’
    The plural is ‘i’.
    Thus two octopussies,
    Become Octopi.
    It’s latinized English
    Concocts these strange rules,
    Like crocus and rhombus,
    Yet again Platypi.
    If you that is odd,
    Let’s take the word tough.
    Change ‘T’ for a ‘D’ ,
    You’d expect the sound Duff?
    Now that would make sense,
    But gracious me ,No!
    In barmy ‘Ole England ,
    It must rhyme with Doh!
    and so on ad nauseum,but the kids still remember it and their Grumpa enjoys another life in each generation.All hail to the purists Usque ab Ova!

  47. So lets sum it up:

    People die in third world country.
    ZERO people died in US.
    ZERO people died in Europe.
    Media panics.

    How is that different from every day? Hundreds of people die weekly in Africa from simple diarrhea.

    Wake me up when someone dies from it in US.

    The difference, I think, is that the media has panicked, precisely because there is a chance people might start dying of it in the US.

    Because normally, when thousands of people die in developing countries, the media doesn’t mention it, and people in the developed world only take an interest in those many, many easily preventable deaths if they threaten to affect them in some way. Oh wait.

  48. Pandemic Influenza (Flu) Preparation (prepared April, 2006—Updated 4/27/09)

    Dear Friends and Family,

    (April 2006) I know that I risk sounding alarmist–but I have done LOTS of research recently on Pandemic Flu. As an RN, I have had some recent information that has “raised my eyebrows” about potential pandemic Avian Flu and or Swine Flu. Sites such as the Centers for Disease control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR—One World Gov’t. Proponents) are all contributing nearly daily updates that these flu strains are truly getting closer to a human pandemic (there have now been some documented cases of Avian human-to-human transmission–though not yet extending beyond one person). News from 4/5/06: Cats, pigs and birds may be a real problem in the spread of the disease. The Avian disease (in birds) is predicted to be in North America by this fall, at least (fall 2006). Several of our relatives died in the 1918 Flu–and this flu is very similar–with the “cytokine storm”.

    UPDATE 4/27/09: The current Swine Flu concern (originating in Mexico City) is a genetic mix of Human Flu, North American Bird Flu and American/ Asian/European Pig Flu. This new strain of Swine Flu is a NEW and novel virus…meaning that we humans do not have prior exposure to it or any natural immunity to this new virus. There is no current vaccine for this influenza and your seasonal flu shot is not believed to offer protection against Swine Flu. Tamiflu and Relenza anti-viral medications are believed effective in mitigating the virus if taken within 24-48 hours of the onset of this flu. Mexico appears to be the epicenter of the current outbreak, though cases are now being reported and confirmed in many states and other nations. There have been a concerning number of deaths in Mexico…but remember, Mexico is a third world country with sub-optimal medical care and over-crowded living conditions (Mexico City-20 Million Population). Swine Flu associated Pneumonia appears to be the cause for the fatalities in Mexico at this time. Current Mexican fatality rate as of 4/27/09 (2pm) is approximately 9.3% (approx. 1600 ill in Mexico with approx. 149 dead)

    Below are some links to read:




    (The man in the above article is one of the leading epidemiologists in the world)

    **The next pages offer prudent suggestions for self-help and preparation.

    If this virulent (strong) flu (or any other) becomes very easily transmissible (human to human) epidemic/pandemic—WE WILL ALL HAVE SOME RESPONSIBILITY TO TAKE CARE OF OURSELVES…EMERGENCY DEPARTMENTS MAY BE OVERWHELMED. The current Swine Flu is now being termed “an outbreak”. Believe it or not—the Avian Flu disease is projected to hit the 18-40-ish year olds the worst (the strongest immune systems will produce a “cytokine storm” which will be hard to overcome). The current Swine Flu disease is presently affecting 8-50 year olds most prevalently at this time.
    Signs and symptoms include: fever, body aches, sore throat, cough, decreased appetite, lethargy and possibly nausea, vomiting and diarrhea…complications include Pneumonia. This virus is mainly spread by coming into contact with infected respiratory droplets from people coughing and sneezing.

    Solution? Don’t get infected.

    So, What should we do?

    1. Stock a reasonable supply for non-perishable food and some water
    Stock extra basics: toilet paper, feminine supplies, batteries, bleach,
    Latex or vinyl medical grade gloves, etc.

    2. Keep plenty of pedialyte or gatorade/sports drinks (electrolyte replacement)
    on hand.

    3. Keep Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Imodium (for diarrhea), Benedryl, Pepcid, Tums and
    all prescription medications on hand. Include child liquid medications if
    applicable. If your MD will prescribe Tamiflu, get it. If your MD will prescribe
    Cipro or Avelox or Levaquin (to combat possible secondary bacterial
    pneumonia) get it. Don’t take these unless the epidemic/pandemic is upon us
    and you actually need it (and your Physician instructs you to take the
    medication). Always follow your physician’s orders! Be sure to have a
    working thermometer and rubbing alcohol to sanitize it. Again, follow your
    physician’s directions.
    **Keep a STOCK of all of your regularly prescribed medications…90 days if
    If you can manage it.

    4. Get some N95 masks now…TODAY
    Lowe’s and Home Depot have N-95 or N-100 Face Masks in the isle
    where sand paper is…ASK for them and get some Today.


    Link: http://www.gallawaysafety.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=15
    (I have NO financial interest)
    This is a local co. in Eighty-Four PA. Order by phone—get
    some adult and child masks if you have kids–if the news breaks that an
    epidemic/pandemic has started–you won’t be able to get ANY. If wide spread
    infection occurs— they should only be used if you absolutely have to go out.
    This is what you need:
    N95 or N100 Adult and child masks (if you have kids or a small adult face)

    5. Keep hand sanitizing alcohol gel on hand at home and in your car. Good
    Hygiene limits infection!

    6. Keep anti-bacterial/antiviral cleaning supplies in good supply (Mr. Clean Anti-
    bacterial, Lysol spray, rubbing alcohol (cheap), etc.

    7. If an epidemic/pandemic starts, be prepared to stay home (businesses should
    be making contingency plans). Our government can and does have the
    power to mandate home quarantines. Candles and an emergency radio
    would be a good idea: Candles (drippless paraffin tapers and tea lights) are
    really inexpensive at IKEA. Here is a link for emergency radios in the event of
    social disruptions:

    8. At home: Isolate family toothbrushes and replace frequently. Don’t share
    Towels (even hand towels)…Wash bath and bed linens frequently. Cough
    and sneeze into tissues and dispose of promptly.
    FREQUENT/VIGOROUS HAND WASHING…for at least 15 seconds.
    Enough cannot be said about hand washing! Carefully teach your children
    these things! Isolate sick family members and limit or eliminate hugging and
    kissing if illness is present in the home. Keep a clean home and get fresh air
    into home when possible. Stay home if you are sick!

    9. If you come upon or see any dead birds or cats–Don’t touch them or get near
    them. Report them to your local animal control bureau or to your local county
    health department (more applicable for Avian Flu…but good to remember).

    10. EVERYONE: Get a Pneumovax (pneumonia shot) and a yearly Flu shot.
    Also get your MMR and Hepatitis vaccinations updated (or have your titers
    checked–blood test).

    11. Prudent advice: If you don’t have at least a basic Will, get one–especially if
    you have kids. This is just a good idea in any event.

    12. STAY AWAY FROM CROWDS!!! Don’t touch your face in public.
    Keep some hand sanitizer in your car…Wash hands thoroughly ASAP.
    13. If you have to go out during an Epidemic/Pandemic: Wear a N-95 or N-100
    mask and don’t forget about your eyes…the mucous membranes of the eyes
    are a portal into your circulation…just like your mouth and nose! A pair of
    glasses is no guarantee of safety…but may help, if someone sneezes near

    14. These are basics: You may have other ideas/needs specifically suited to
    your family.

    Dr. Michael Osterholm (the leading epidemiologist) said the likely hood of a global flu pandemic of some kind in the next 5 years is near 100 %( stated in 2006). There have been 10 pandemics in the last 300 years. Hopefully, prayerfully—this won’t occur—but we are all foolish, if we are not prepared. As we saw in Katrina–we will have to help ourselves in the event of a disaster and we can’t (and shouldn’t) expect our government to be at our door with a silver platter of aid–it is just not strategically, logistically, or economically feasible. Let’s all be safe rather than sorry—or dead.

    Pass this on to other friends and loved ones. This is not something to panic about–but it is something to prepare for.

    With concern for all,

    Kathie Marino RN

    **Disclaimer: Your Family Physician’s advice should be your main focus in all health matters and decisions. Refer to your private physician for questions and direction.

  49. ZOMGosh u guys… a few days ago i played a game and it was a game where you had to make a disease and spread it far across the world… few days after i played it, this is what happens?

  50. I’m upping my weekly bacon dose to twice a week, as a sort of inner “pork prophylactic”.

    Also maintaining the most robust immune system possible just tends to make sense, in all seriousness. There’s so many things out there that could just up and kill ya. Best to live in the moment. Smiling Mister Death (or Ms. Death, depending on your POV) is gonna git us all anywhee, so we might as well live each day to the fullest.

  51. Apart from Mexico, the only places where flu cases were confirmed are developed countries with close ties to the US (except for Spain, but it’s still a developed country). Why is it that here in South America so many countries report (few)possible cases and many of these cases have already been dismissed? Are our tourists luckier than the ones from the US, Canada, Israel, NZ, UK and Spain? I can find plenty of people who have arrived here (Brazil) back from Mexico and say that they didn’t get proper or even any orientation at all, having gotten all the info from the media. The politicians here are feeding us with BS, showing smoke screen measures and, as an only positive intention, maybe only trying to avoid a state of panic.
    I’ve already gotten two durable and quality masks for me and my mother and I’m planning on buying Tamiflu, even if efficiency is not yet confirmed. I know I gotta go on with life, but what other prevention can I do? (Besides washing the hand, watching out for symptoms, people who returned from areas with confirmed cases and blah, blah, yeah, I do this everyday a gazillion times…) You know, just in case The Man Comes Around…

  52. The importance of vaccine and preparedness has become more obvious in wake of the “swine flu virus”. The CDC has developed a healthcare hand book to help combat a variety of Vaccine Preventable Diseases.

    The CDC’s Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, 11th Edition (The Pink Book) – Just Released!

    The new, 11th edition of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book) is now available from the Public Health Foundation (PHF). “The Pink Book” provides physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, and others with comprehensive information on vaccine-preventable diseases. The new 11th edition contains the latest information and updates on immunization, including:

    Revised principles of vaccination
    Updated recommendations on immunization
    New immunization strategies for healthcare practices and providers
    Guidelines on vaccine safety
    This essential resource is now available for ordering online by visiting the PHF online store at http://bookstore.phf.org. Ordering via mail, phone, fax, and purchase order is also available by calling PHF toll-free at (877)252-1200 for full instructions.

  53. This is very informative. Citizens should be educated of A(H1N1) virus to stop its spread or at least lessen it. Posts such as this one really help in informing people of the virus thus teaching them how to avoid it.

    Thanks Boingboing!

    – Jason

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