September 22, 2019   12:33am
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Should you WANT to catch swine flu?

Just when we got used to a frantic routine of hand-washing, dodging coughs and staying far away from Mexico, new information says that there’s a chance our hard work may have been counterproductive …

Swine flu, now known as A(H1N1), may not be as deadly here as in other locals, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get worse. So we asked ourselves, “why does it seem that the flu frenzy has died down already?”  Now we’re beginning to understand the reason.

Swine flu has the potential to mutate into a more lethal virus — which is the less talked about reason as to why it’s dangerous.   However, some suggest that if that happens, those already infected will be immune.

“The findings suggest that going all-out to prevent exposure to the kind of non-seasonal flu sweeping across the world today may turn out to be counter-productive in the fight to reduce mortality,” the Physorg.com article, “Swine flu could protect against deadly mutation experts say.

The article points to the initial flu that occurred during 1918 that in its first stage wasn’t very deadly. It wasn’t until a few months later when the flu mutated into something much more dangerous that it became a pandemic —  killing something like 40 million people worldwide.

“The death rate among those infected during the first wave was 70 percent lower, according to groundbreaking research published in November in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

“In 1918, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it would have been better to allow a first wave of infection in order to build immunity to the merging virus while it was still mild,” says Lone Simonsen, an epidemiologist at George Washington University …

That the first wave of the 1918 flu acted like a vaccine for subsequent waves may seem unsurprising. But their study, which analysed monthly hospitalisation and mortality rates for respiratory illness in dozens of army camps in the United States and Britain, is the first to muster convincing evidence.

“For a lot of people in our field, history begins in about 1995, which is as far back as most electronic archives go,” said Christopher Fraser, a mathematical modeller and infectious disease epidemiologist at Imperial College London.

“But if you go back through older records with a modern understanding and computational techniques for processing lots of data, you can really gain a lot of insight into what happened,” he told AFP … “We also found that prior immunity protected the population to a very large extent in the autumn wave,” he said.

Health officials today, he added, face a chicken-and-egg problem in deciding whether to “let the infection go”.

“You would need at least a few thousand infections before you could really say that,” which may not happen if the global effort to contain the swine flu’s spread succeeds, he explained.

But if you do let the virus progress before finding out how virulent it is, it could put people at risk if the first wave turns out to be more dangerous than expected.”

Should you factor this in … or continue avoiding this season’s swine flu bug?  We’re not promoting trying to contract the virus, but maybe there is an upside to it if you do.

Harriett@snoety.com

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