Thursday, July 30, 2009

Swine Flu: A Tale of Two Viruses

1859 Chapman & Hall

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.”

Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities

In the Guardian a few days ago an article attempted to look at the contrast between London and Paris in terms of the Swine flu Pandemic and the cities' responses:

“Today, we seem to be experiencing A Tale of Two Cities in reverse when it comes to swine flu.

“On Thursday, the British government fired up a special swine flu website, designed to ease the burden for doctors and hospitals. It crashed within minutes as millions rushed to log on.

“On the same day in France, government introduced a change similarly aimed at helping the health service. People who believe they have swine flu are being directed to their general practitioner (GP) rather than the emergency room of the nearest hospital. The change was introduced without a murmur.”

The question was asked as to the difference in reaction between the two countries:

Swine Flu figures: UK: 100,000 VS France: 793

Population: each with around 60 million people, and of similar prosperity.

"Britain and France are also neighbours, linked by all sorts of ties. You would expect a wave of flu in Britain to head across the Channel at some point and show up in France. Yet it hasn't happened yet."

The speculations:

Britain is more accurate than France in reporting the number of people with swine flu.

“But I for one am dismissive of this, given the excellence of the French health system (regularly ranked in the world's top three) and especially its alert system.”

“Are the British genetically more susceptible to swine flu than anyone else?” Perhaps not.

So assuming the data on both sides of the Channel are accurate, the Guardian article continued:

-- Britain was merely the first country in Europe to experience swine flu on a massive scale. The wave will eventually hit continental Europe with the same magnitude.

-- The massive spread of swine flu in Britain can only have occurred through patterns of contact that are not the same as in France.

-- The British government's flu awareness and prevention campaign didn't work for some reason.

“Finding out what happened is essential, as it will help flu experts to understand how and why flu propagates and how to better advise the public about how to prevent infection.”

The answer may indeed be elsewhere:

New H3N2 flu variant detected in HK

HONG KONG, July 29 (Xinhua)

Medical science in Hong Kong is a match of the best in the world and ever since SARS in 2003 they have not been complacent at all.

The Chinese news agency Xinhua reported:

Hong Kong's health authorities announced Wednesday that a new variant of the H3N2 seasonal influenza virus had been found in the city.

“The Brisbane strain had been the prevalent circulating strain of H3N2 in the past year and the new variant is its direct descendent, said Thomas Tsang, controller of Hong Kong's Center for Health Protection.”

The new H3N2 accounts for nearly half the cases.

“H3N2 accounts for 43 percent of flu viruses circulating in Hong Kong while Influenza A/H1N1 accounts for 49 percent.”

The question must now be asked as Jeremy Clarkson did of Mercedes Benz on the A Class and the Elk Test Failure:

“Did they not know or did they not tell us? If they did not, they have no business making cars and if they did, well…….”

Perhaps the simpler question is:

“Did they Look?”

They did in Hong Kong.


Learning from History: Swine Flu & Antibiotics

EBM: Masks, Cathay Pacific Airline, SARS and Influenza A(H1N1)

Learning From History: 1918 Flu Pandemic, Hong Kong SARS, Swine Flu & Influenza A(H1N1) Swine Flu: WHO Level 5 & The 1976 Vaccine Disaster.

Hong Kong: SARS and Swine Flu


hettie said...

in the UK swine flu cases aren't counted, they are estimated. There are no resources to test every case and there's no attepmt to do so. That's where I think the number difference lies.

Cockroach Catcher said...

On July 6 WHO update: France 310/UK 7447 ( according to WHO these are laboratory confirmed cases.

7447 is of course the UK lab. confirmed cases as there is really no incentive to inflate the numbers.

Without testing we would not know if H3N2 or H5N1 is lurking around.