View Full Version : What is with the hype about this flu?

03-17-2003, 06:06 PM
The announcers and the headlines speak with magisterial tone: "Investigators are puzzling over the outbreak of a mysterious illness..."

Don't people get sick and sometimes die of the flue every year? What is this about?

Sam F
03-17-2003, 06:10 PM
This "flu" turns into pneumonia and at this time is caused by no known organism. And whatever it is, it doesn't respond to antibiotics.

It appears to be capable of spreading rapidly. China where it originated has invited in a team from the CDC to help out. Just another benefit of the Global Economy…

[ 03-17-2003, 06:12 PM: Message edited by: Sam F ]

03-17-2003, 06:10 PM
A nasty bug. It's a pretty bad form of the flu that kills not just the eldery but also strong healthy folks. It hits hard and fast and turns in a virulent pneumonia that antibotics can't touch.

Remmber the flu of 1914? It killed more people than WW1. Something like that is bound to happen again sometime. Hopefully not to soon.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
03-17-2003, 06:12 PM
According to a specialist interviewed on the BBC tonight it probably is not any kind of 'flu, Jack.

It certainly is a very nasty viral respiratory infection which is highly infectious and frequently fatal.

Like almost all the world's viral diseases, it originated in China - sometime last year, in this case. It is thought that most of these viruses cross from other species into homo sapiens because many Southern Chinese peasants live in excessively close proximity to their livestock - most of these diseases are poultry and pig viruses in origin.

03-17-2003, 06:15 PM
It doesn't respond to anti-virals either and the CDC is officially concerned. The icky thing is that it originated in China where most flu virae are born, for some reason due to the proximity of duck and pig farming (no joke). It does not appear to be caused by the "standard" influenza virus or one of it's many mutations. The "icky" factor stems from the concern that it could signal a radically new mutation - and the last such radical mutation killed many millions of people in the nineteen-teens (more people died from the flu than from WW I).

This was posted at the same time as the 2 previous ones, thus the duplication of info. BTW, influenza is a viral disease and antibiotics are not an appropriate or effective treatment unless there is a secondary bacterial infection.

[ 03-17-2003, 06:17 PM: Message edited by: Meerkat ]

Jim H
03-17-2003, 06:19 PM
Experts Suspect Virus
Is Cause of Mystery Illness

LONDON -- Health experts searching for the cause of a frightening outbreak of a deadly flu-like illness in Asia say the culprit is probably a virus, and they are encouraged that some victims appear to be getting better.
More than 150 people have fallen ill, mostly in Hong Kong and Vietnam, and nine have died over the past three weeks. Experts suspect 300 people in China's Guangdong province had the same disease beginning in mid-November.
While experts are unsure precisely what is causing the outbreak, several say their biggest fear is that it is a new and lethal form of influenza.
"If it really is the flu, it could be we have a new organism that could cause a pandemic," said Dr. R. Bradley Sack, director of Johns Hopkins University's international travel clinic. "People immediately start thinking of 1917," when a world-wide flu epidemic began that killed at least 20 million people.
So far, the disease has killed seven people in Asia and two in North America. Its rapid spread, and the discovery of two clusters in Canada, caused a rare world-wide health alert to be issued on Saturday. The illness is being called "severe acute respiratory syndrome," or SARS.
Health officials in China Monday said the disease that infected about 300 people and killed five in Guangdong province "seems amenable to treatment," although they stressed there is still no link to cases in other countries.
A person suspected of having Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome will show a recent history of:
High fever: greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
At least one respiratory symptom, including cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
Close contact* with someone who has been diagnosed with SARS or recent travel to areas that are reporting cases
In addition to the fever and respiratory symptoms above, SARS may be associated with: headache, muscular stiffness, loss of appetite, malaise, confusion, rash and diarrhea.
*Close contact means having cared for, having lived with, or having had direct contact with respiratory secretions and body fluids of a person with SARS.
Source: World Health Organization

Investigators suspect a virus is involved because victims do not seem to respond well to standard antibiotics, which kill only bacteria, and because their white blood counts drop. That typically happens with viral infections but not bacterial ones.

In Europe, two people were hospitalized in Paris with suspicious respiratory problems after returning from trips to Asia. Doctors were conducting tests Monday to see if the cases are linked to the outbreak.

One of the patients returned from Vietnam showing flu-like symptoms and the other person, who had been in Hong Kong, appeared to be suffering from bronchitis, said Lucien Abenhaim, France's director-general of health. Also, a woman in Slovenia who came from Vietnam 10 days ago was suspected of being infected.

Experts discounted the possibility that terrorism was the source and believed it was a contagious infection that spreads easily from victims to their doctors, nurses and families through coughing, sneezing and other contact with nasal fluids.

The incubation period appears to be three to seven days. It often begins with a high fever and other flu-like symptoms, such as headache and sore throat. Victims typically develop coughs, pneumonia, shortness of breath and other breathing difficulties. Death results from respiratory failure.

The Geneva-based World Health Organization said airline travelers could be spreading the atypical pneumonia, which it declared "a world-wide health threat" on Saturday.

With few facts about the illness established, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark on Monday said some officials inside WHO fear the possibility of an outbreak as "deadly as the 1918 influenza" pandemic.

But a WHO official in Vietnam, where a nurse on Saturday became the ninth fatality, played down such worries. "Today we don't know enough about the outbreak to be able to say that," WHO official Pascale Brudon said. Mr. Brudon said 10 other patients with the illness in Hanoi were "getting better and better."

Nonetheless, authorities around Asia were taking precautions.

In China, a WHO official said the Chinese government has asked for help to investigate the malady. Hank Bekedam, another WHO representative in Beijing, said the number of cases reported by the Chinese government is officially unchanged since mid-February -- 305 sickened and five dead in southern China's Guangdong province, which is next door to Hong Kong.

A Chinese Health Ministry report released by WHO Monday said "antibiotics did not have an obvious effect" on patients in Guangdong province. But, the report said, "the patients are being cured one by one."

Alan Schnur, team leader of communicable disease control for WHO in Beijing, said the organization issued its warning because of how fast the illness seemed to be traveling and "the global nature" of the problem. "There's sort of the same shock and concern now as when AIDS first developed," Mr. Schnur said. "Again we have a new disease that we don't know the cause yet. We are still searching how to treat it."

In Hong Kong, where an American businessman died last week, health officials said Monday that the number of confirmed cases had almost doubled, to 83. But they said they have identified a hospital patient who may have spread the disease, which should make it easier to bring under control.

Hong Kong's biggest airline, Cathay Pacific Airways, ordered ground staff to turn away passengers who appeared sick. Some tourists in Hong Kong wore surgical masks as they left the airport, and some travelers arriving in Guangzhou, China, also wore masks or covered their faces with scarves.

In Japan, there have been no cases reported but airport quarantine stations were watching out for arriving travelers who might be infected. The government ordered health workers to report any suspected outbreaks.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry said three health officials had gone to Vietnam to help doctors there cope with its outbreak.

The Vietnamese nurse who died in Hanoi is believed to have caught pneumonia along with 30 other hospital staff after treating the American businessman who later died in Hong Kong. The businessman, a resident of Shanghai, reported flu-like symptoms during a two-day stay in Hong Kong before flying to Hanoi, but it is uncertain where he caught the disease, said Jimmy Lee, a spokesman for Hong Kong's Health Department. The Hanoi hospital was closed and the unidentified American man was evacuated to Hong Kong, where he died last Thursday.

In Australia, a woman was hospitalized Monday with symptoms of the illness, but has not been officially diagnosed, health authorities said. They wouldn't disclose whether she had recently traveled overseas.

In Germany, a Singapore doctor suspected of having SARS was in stable condition after being taken off a weekend flight from New York along with two family members, officials said. The 32-year-old doctor had treated a patient with the disease in Singapore before his trip to New York.

His pregnant wife developed a low-grade fever and a sore throat Monday, doctors at their Frankfurt hospital said. The 30-year-old woman and her mother, 62, were taken off the flight from New York along with her husband and admitted to the isolation ward of Frankfurt's University Clinic after he started showing symptoms.

Doctors were awaiting further lab tests on the doctor, believed the first person in Europe to be infected with the disease. "The symptoms of a fever, aching muscles and bones and coughing remain unchanged," Dr. Hans-Reinhard Brodt, the head of the hospital's isolation ward, said in a statement on the condition of the male patient.

He said the mother-in-law continued to run a high fever that developed Sunday and all three patients remained in the hospital's isolation ward, where they were taken Saturday after arriving in Frankfurt on a Singapore Airlines flight from New York.

Elsewhere in Europe, a woman in Slovenia who came from Vietnam 10 days ago was suspected of being infected.

Philippine health authorities on Monday were randomly sampling pneumonia patients, and the quarantine bureau was monitoring international travelers. One patient was discharged from a Manila hospital after being cleared of having the infection, despite being in contact with a patient who had earlier died in Hong Kong.

A WHO representative in Manila, Jean-Marc Olive, said he has asked the WHO to remove the Philippines from a list of countries where the disease has been detected.

WHO this weekend also reported an unspecified number of cases in Indonesia and Thailand. But Mark Brooks, WHO's technical officer in Jakarta, said Monday that a suspected case in Indonesia had been investigated and found to have no links to the disease.

Thailand's health minister on Monday also denied the reports that the disease was found in the country. Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphun said officials would ask the WHO to remove Thailand from the list of countries where the disease has been detected.

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03-17-2003, 06:23 PM
The World Health Organization alerts travelers to be aware of the symptoms, which include:
People after February 1 with a history of fever greater than 100.4 F (38 C) and one or more respiratory symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and one or more of the following:

Close contact with a person who has been diagnosed with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. Close contact means having cared for, having lived with, or having had direct contact with respiratory secretions and body fluids of a person with SARS.

Recent history of travel to areas reporting cases of SARS. (CNN.com)

Mortality is reported as 9 of 150 cases and 5 of 350 cases. Seems to be spreading fast.

There is no evidence that the disease spreads though casual contact, according to a health agency statement.

Last week, Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, advised the public to postpone "nonessential travel" to those parts of Asia where the pneumonia has surfaced.

The 500 known cases are clustered in Guangdong province, China; Hong Kong; and Hanoi, Vietnam; said Dick Thompson, the WHO's communications officer.

03-17-2003, 06:32 PM
So they haven't been able to pin this on a variation of the flu virus, is that it? They don't know?

Time to get obsessive compulsive about washing hands, and avoid buses, planes and department stores, I guess. ;)

Not to make light of it. I think one of the worst possible ways to die would be drowning in one's own fluids. I had one serious respiritory infection, untreated, in my early twenties. Not being able to 'catch one's breath' is horrible. If it hits me I hope they have a good supply of vicodan on hand.

03-17-2003, 07:01 PM
Jack, I'm with you on this one,,I wonder if the speed and importance given to this disease also reflects a greater early warning capabilities throughout the world. I suspect that post AIDS that China is more open than it used to be in assisting other countries with identifying outbreaks of new diseases. I bet the antibiotic resistant Staph germ that has shown up is a greater risk to folks.

03-17-2003, 08:51 PM
Cases now in Britan. 14 Americans (10 of which "almost certainly do not have the disease") are under observation. Airports are handing out health info cards to arriving international travellers.

[ 03-17-2003, 08:51 PM: Message edited by: Meerkat ]

ken mcclure
03-17-2003, 09:22 PM
Points up again one of the several reasons why I don't like living in the city.

03-17-2003, 09:38 PM
So move. What's keeping you?

I'm feeling a little puffed. I move shortly into a country haven, close enough to Bangor to do the minor ubanity it offers, but far enough away to feel my country oats. Ha, like Bangor is the 'city'.

Pittsburg. Used to visit there when I had a lover in that neigborhood. They still make steel there?

03-18-2003, 03:43 AM
Pittsburgh has turned into a pill pusher's paradise. They now make their living being a major regional medical center. Amazing number of hospitals and specialty centers (as of 1989, when I moved away from there). I think there's some number of corporate headquarters there too, but the steel mills are all gone. The Homestead mills where being carted away for scrap.

03-19-2003, 02:49 AM
The virus causing this has now been identified and it's not an influenza virus.

(Yahoo News): "From the shape of the virus, it belongs to the paramyxoviridae family," said virologist John Tam at the Chinese University in Hong Kong.

Though the symptoms appear similar, influenza was not a member of the that family, said Lo Wing-lok, an infectious disease expert.