Has one of the year 2009’s greatest fears become a reality? The Ukrainian Hemorrhagic Flu strain, as it’s being called by panicked reports has shut down cities who are fearing a greater problem may be to blame. In addition, several reports coming out of Des Moines Iowa indicate it may have jumped to the US. The Polk County coroner has said previous estimates on the number of deaths related to H1N1 are inaccurate. Contrary to many reports, however, he has not confirmed if this is a deadlier form of H1N1 that may or may not have come from the Ukraine. Is it time for those who have been stockpiling for years to finally grab their supplies and head to the bomb shelter? Or will this viral rumor turn out to be benign?
“We may see a virus that may cause more deaths than we’re used to in this country,” Dr. Gregory Schmunk has been telling local news outlets in Iowa, “In the autopsy, what we’re seeing is very heavy, wet hemorrhagic lungs, lungs with lots of blood in them.” He’s gone on to say that official reports of the death toll have been widely inaccurate due to the nature of the test, since many who are positive are too sick to actually get tested for the disease and the disease is notoriously difficult to detect. In addition, some who clinically have the disease turn up a false negative. Could the false negatives be due to a mutation?
When people begin to speculate on the potential lethality of the H1N1 virus, the disease they most often compare it to is the Spanish Flu of 1918 which claimed millions of lives worldwide. The presence of the D225G mutation in H1N1 flu has been tested in 90 cases of H1N1 from the Ukraine, and many reports are saying this mutation is present in the new strain of Swine Flu. Still others, critics of the swine flu’s potential lethality, are saying D225G is not necessarily the final straw that will make Swine Flu as deadly as the 1918 Spanish Influenza containing the same mutation.
Out of four genetic sequences graphed in the United Kingdom, the four resulting in the deaths of patients turned out to contain D225G while the other cases did not appear as harsh. According to this analysis, D225G could be directly relatable to how deadly the virus ends up being.
It would be irresponsible to say that this conclusively means the Swine Flu will end up anywhere near as deadly as the Spanish Flu. The WHO’s official stance on the mutation is that it does not appear to spread, and occurs spontaneously and sporadically. Of course it is important to keep in mind that as with any disease, the H1N1 virus can mutate, and the presence of D225G is evidence that this is already happening. Until the D225G strain becomes more transmissible, however, it’s unknown if it will be as deadly as the Spanish Flu. As with any concern, it’s important to maintain a cool head and not get carried away, but also be responsible in your preparation for any potential disaster of mass proportions.
Whether the H1N1 virus containing D225G becomes more widespread or not, a well stocked home with proper hygiene practiced within isn’t going to break the bank, nor is it inciting panic. Having a few extra weeks worth of dry or canned supplies isn’t irresponsible or paranoid, it’s simply common sense. And practicing proper hygiene (washing hands, avoiding touching the mouth, sneezing into tissue or sleeve, coughing away from others, etc.) is never a bad idea anyway. The H1N1 virus mimics many panics of the past both deadly and benign, it’s not a good idea to lose your mind worrying, but it’s also not good to ignore all potential outcomes and depend on others to prepare for you. It’s important to get information from sources that are knowledgeable on the subjects concerned and trustworthy. Take care of yourself and your friends, because decisions made in unsure times reveal your true personality.