Thursday, June 25, 2009

German officials warn: swine flu may have mutated

Thanks to M.D. Creekmore over at the Survivalist Blog for the link:

German authorities warn of swine flu mutation risk

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's federal agency for infectious diseases said on Tuesday there were signs the H1N1 swine flu virus had started to mutate and warned it could spread in the coming months in a more aggressive form.

Experts were concerned about how the flu was developing in Australia and South America, said Joerg Hacker, head of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.

"It's possible the virus has mutated. In autumn the mutated form could spread to the northern hemisphere and back to Germany," Hacker told a news conference in Berlin.

The World Health Organization raised swine flu to pandemic status earlier this month. According to its latest figures, more than 230 people have been killed by the flu worldwide from 52,000 confirmed cases, mostly in the United States and Mexico.

Symptoms of swine flu are typically fairly mild, but doctors have said the virus could evolve into something more aggressive.

According to WHO figures, Germany has the third highest rate of swine flu infection in Europe with 275 confirmed cases.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the conference that Germany was as prepared as it could be for any surge in cases.

"We are in contact about it internationally," she said. "Now all we have to do is coordinate internationally who should be vaccinated and how we should do it, in case things get worse."

The WHO has advised governments to prepare for a long-term battle against the new pandemic it officially calls A(H1N1).

WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said recently the virus is currently "pretty stable," but warned it could still change into a more deadly form, perhaps mixing with the H5N1 bird flu virus circulating widely in poultry.

I will note that the swine flu shows signs of behaving exactly as the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic did: the Spanish Flu was a mild, late-appearing epidemic in the spring of that year, mutated into a more aggressive, lethal strain, and returned with a vengeance that fall.

I don't think it's cause for panic, but it does bear watching.


An Unsheltered Life said...

Definitely worth watching, yes. I just hope that, if things do become serious later, people don't shrug their shoulders and say, "Yeah, well, how bad can it be? It barely made a ripple when it hit earlier this year."

lynnaea said...

I know. It would be interesting to see which instinct won out -- the instinct to panic, or the instinct to not care. :/

Not to mention, if the mutation is significant enough people who were previously infected and survived might not have full immunity to the mutated strain, and could get sick again.