Flu Pandemic World Catastrophe

All of the major pandemics in the past had a beginning and an end. The same is true for the current swine flu, or H1N1 influenza, pandemic. But how do officials determine when such a major world catastrophe is over?

The course of a pandemic virus is unpredictable. Past pandemics have had a strong causal relationship between infection and morbidity. The Spanish flu of 1918 killed millions of people. The Asian flu in the 1970s killed tens of thousands of Americans. The Avian flu of recent history appeared to kill around 60 percent of infected people.

Experts have been tracking the fatality rate of H1N1, and as of December 2009, the swine flu didn’t prove nearly as fatal to patients as past pandemic viruses—though it’s not over yet. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) closely monitors the activity of H1N1 morbidity and mortality and publishes data and updates guidelines on a regular basis.

The end of a pandemic requires one or more situations to occur:

  • The agent no longer infects humans, causing serious illness
  • The agent no longer spreads easily and sustainably among humans
  • The human population becomes immune to the agent.

When Will the H1N1 Pandemic Flu End?

Many experts fear that the worst of the H1N1 pandemic is yet to come. Luckily, health officials are more prepared than ever to deal with the effects and consequences of the continuation of this pandemic virus.

So far, the data seems to point out that H1N1 flu cases have decreased, especially in the United States and Canada. However, the World Health Organization remains cautious, stating that the H1N1 influenza virus may begin its third wave of mass infections starting later in the winter of 2010.

No definite predictions can be made about the course of the swine flu. The virus can be unpredictable with respect to severity and extent of disease. It may mutate and re-infect those who have had the swine flu or the swine flu shot. It may become resistant to anti-virals such as Tamiflu®. If these events occur, then we may be in for a long flu season well into the year 2010.

What Can We Do to Help End a Pandemic?

Public awareness of the virus is essential for infection control. Most importantly, promoting flu vaccinations is the primary weapon against the swine flu.

Each of us can take small steps to stop the spread of swine flu. To keep healthy and prevent the spread of H1N1, and avoid getting sick yourself, you should:

  • Obtain a flu vaccine if you’re at high risk for infection
  • Stay at home, and have your children stay at home, when symptoms of the flu present themselves
  • Urge friends and family at high risk for infection to get the H1N1 flu shot
  • Wash your hands frequently, particularly when you’ve had contact with many people.

Resources

Nebehay, S. (2009). H1N1 pandemic starting to wane in some countries: WHO. Retrieved December 11, 2009, from the ABC News Web site: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory?id=9236206.

Park, A. (2009). The H1N1 pandemic: Is a second wave possible? Retrieved December 11, 2009, from the Time Magazine Web site: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1946879,00.html.

Wilson, C. (2009). How does a pandemic ever end? Retrieved December 11, 2009, from the Slate Web site: http://www.slate.com/id/2217011/.