After the hype surrounding H1N1 flu last April, and the resulting less-than-disastrous result (“only” 522 people have died), the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology isn’t backing off from the big numbers. A report says that up to 90,000 people may die.
It’s not that the H1N1 flu will be more severe that a typical flu-season strain, it’s that more people will get it and, thus, more people will die. Up to half the population of the U.S. will get H1N1. There also isn’t the immunity to this strain of flu.
During an online “chat” with Amy Garcia of the National Association of School Nurses today, a questioner from Minneapolis on the Washington Post site asked if the “concern that we just don’t know how it will react, as compared to the flu that we usually get every year? Or is it something more than that?”
This strain of H1N1 flu is novel, meaning new. So it spreads easily because people have not been exposed and do not have antibodies to it. This strain of H1N1 concerns me for several of reasons:
1. It disproportionately impacts children and pregnant women.
2. There seems to be a higher incidence of pneumonia, possibly because this virus replicates deep inside the lung.
3. It spreads very easily and quickly. My school nurse friends who have witnessed outbreaks describe large numbers of children getting very sick, very quickly.
4. The H1N1 virus may mutate to be more deadly, and still very contagious.
The experts issue the same recommendations to people they’ve been issuing since last April: Wash your hands regularly, don’t cough in someone’s face, and stay home when you’re sick.
That last item is the big nut in all of this. People who don’t have any sick time, tend not to take days off regardless of their medical woes and the threat to the rest of us. So the same experts are asking employers to “be flexible,” another way of saying “don’t penalize them for staying home.”
After last spring’s build-up and resulting backlash, who’s left who’s still listening to the warnings and advice?