U.S. Warns Against Travel to Mexico

The evening news reports the number of swine flu cases in the U.S. is now at 45. The U.S. is officially warning against travel to Mexico. The World Health Organization has upped the pandemic alert level.

More cases are expected. On NBC's Nightly News, expert Robert Bazell said those masks you see people wearing do very little. And it's okay to eat pork.

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    I think there's very little you can do (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by andgarden on Mon Apr 27, 2009 at 06:59:33 PM EST
    individually. I just carry a little bottle of hand sanitizer and hope for the best.

    I have exams for the next week, so getting swine flu would not be cool at all.

    Hand sanitizers (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Zorba on Mon Apr 27, 2009 at 08:06:46 PM EST
    Unless your hand sanitizer contains alcohol, it won't kill the flu virus (or any virus).  Use an alcohol-based sanitizer/wipe.  If you don't have an alcohol-based sanitizer, wash your hands frequently, using plenty of soap, for at least 20 seconds (which is a good idea for everyone, anyway, on a regular basis).  And don't panic about this swine flu.

    63% Ethanol (none / 0) (#6)
    by andgarden on Mon Apr 27, 2009 at 08:20:06 PM EST
    If not for the nasty "inactive ingredients," you could probably get drunk from it.

    You could just carry a flask (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by nycstray on Mon Apr 27, 2009 at 09:02:44 PM EST
    of ever clear {grin} Shot of lemon juice in it for extra sanitizing properties . . . .

    Ick. (none / 0) (#14)
    by Fabian on Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 01:23:08 AM EST
    I prefer my drinking alcohol properly adulterated.  

    OTOH - my sister uses it to make up tinctures and extracts and loves the looks she gets when she goes to the liquor store and buys a liter of almost pure grain alcohol.


    lol!~ I use it for the same reasons (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by nycstray on Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 02:08:51 AM EST
    as your sister. Can't buy it here, so I ordered it online. And ordered 4 liters. I originally wanted it to make extracts and then realized all the other stuff I could do with it. And as long as you're paying shipping  ;) I was thinking of getting a little aged oak barrel for the vanilla extracts. The citrus ones I made are great. Use a dash with rice, veggies etc and it really adds a nice dimension to what ever I'm cooking. On some of them, I also added brandy. Kitchen science experiments are fun!

    I was suggesting the flask full with a shot of lemon for hand cleaning, not drinking! At all of 105lbs, I'm kinda afraid of the stuff for drinking!!!


    Got that right. (none / 0) (#7)
    by Zorba on Mon Apr 27, 2009 at 09:00:36 PM EST
    The downside is, the heavily alcohol-based sanitizers are very drying on your hands.  It's just the way it is.  Use moisturizers frequently.  (Even with those, it's still quite drying.)

    Yup (none / 0) (#9)
    by andgarden on Mon Apr 27, 2009 at 09:07:50 PM EST
    Good thing I keep plenty of my favorite hand cream around.

    And don't be a politician; (none / 0) (#16)
    by NYShooter on Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 01:51:45 AM EST
    Don't Shake Hands!!!

    What masks are good for (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Apr 27, 2009 at 09:30:26 PM EST
    First is making it less likely that the people wearing them will spread the virus by sneezing and coughing on other people, if they have it and don't realize it yet.

    They are also quite helpful, I think, in making it less likely you will touch your face with your potentially germ-laden hands.

    Those are both quite valuable things.

    Most of all, it's important to realize that the virus does not spread through the air so that you would inhale it just from being near someone who's got it, but only through inhaling or ingesting saliva or nasal secretions from an infected person-- ie, by having someone sneeze in your face, or by shaking hands and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.  The masks make it much, much less likely that either of those things will happen.

    If there is a serious epidemic, widespread use of masks will make a big difference not only in lessening the spread of the virus but in personally protecting yourself from getting it from someone.

    Ahh yes the experts. (none / 0) (#1)
    by SOS on Mon Apr 27, 2009 at 06:50:41 PM EST
     . .

    Even though this isn't going to be fun (none / 0) (#3)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Apr 27, 2009 at 07:20:36 PM EST
    I am grateful to be able to live in the country that I do right now where access to healthcare is widespread.  Who knows how this is going to play out?  Will transimission slow?  Will it help us globally that this is coming at the tailend of the flu season or will that even matter with this bug?

    I think this has the potential to be (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Anne on Mon Apr 27, 2009 at 07:41:19 PM EST
    very damaging economically - if the people who can still afford to travel and go to events where there are a lot of people - baseball and lacrosse games, outdoor concerts, the beach - cut back or stop because they fear getting the flu, it's going to be devastating for the economy - we just don't have any room for anything that keeps people from spending.

    From what I've read, this flu doesn't appear to be any worse than any other flu - it is coming at a sort of non-traditional time for the flu, but that's not an indication of its severity.

    It annoys the bejesus out of me that by calling it "the swine flu," as opposed to "the flu," the media add a level of fear that is probably not called for - "swine flu" sounds so much for foreign and deadly. The media are full into disaster mode, barely able to contain themselves over it, making their calls for people not to panic seem really lame.  What else would you do, how else would you feel, with them "Breaking News" about it 24/7?  A news promo on my local Fox affiliate: "Bracing for the Worst!"

    Yes, people need to know, but it just gets on my nerves after a while.

    And I can't help thinking it is a much-needed distraction from torture and the Harman "controversy."  


    The World Health Organization (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Apr 27, 2009 at 09:23:28 PM EST
    I don't think has either a political or a ratings agenda.  They are taking this very seriously indeed.  It's a very fine line between giving people the cautionary info they ought to have and overdoing it and scaring people unnecessarily.

    I honestly don't think anybody yet knows where this falls on that scale.

    Much as I hate to recommend anything at The Orange, DemFromCt, who's a physician specializing in pediatric pulmonary issues and knows a good deal about flus of various kinds, has been posting superb information-filled diaries on the subject.  He's/she's no alarmist, but takes this quite seriously as a potential major problem.


    There's a difference between (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Anne on Mon Apr 27, 2009 at 10:12:31 PM EST
    the kind of info WHO is getting out and the hysterical way in which the media is treating the whole situation - that's what irritates me.

    It's the flu.  No more and no less dangerous than any other flu, and the precautions are the same: wash your hands often, stay away from people who are actively sneezing, sniffling, coughing, try not to touch your face/mouth/nose - call your doctor if you have symptoms - and so on.

    My criticism is not for WHO - I trust they have their priorities in order - it's for the we-love-a-good-disaster media.


    I'd argue "it-is-just-the-flu" (none / 0) (#15)
    by Fabian on Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 01:29:34 AM EST
    An ordinary flu might kill you if you are in poor health or develop bacterial pneumonia.  This flu will kill you even if you are healthy, without a secondary infection.  

    As it is, my youngest just threw up in the middle of the night.  I'll find out if the school is using a stricter policy when I call in the morning.  Their usual is "24 hours with no symptoms" (fever, vomiting or diarrhea).


    The worrisome thing is (none / 0) (#17)
    by otherlisa on Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 02:01:44 AM EST
    this flu's tendency to kill people between the ages of 20-40, making it similar to the "Spanish flu" of 1918. I am sort of winging it here, but what I recall reading is that the immune response to the 1918 virus is so over the top that the resulting inflammation in the lungs contributes to mortality - thus younger healthier people with stronger immune systems die from it. I think the experts decided that the 1918 flu was a variety of bird flu, though originally it was thought to be "swine" as well.

    The problems are, we don't have immunity to this virus for the most part, and because it's a Type A virus it's...I'm going to get this wrong...RNA, not DNA and more susceptible to mutations. So it could fizzle out or become more deadly. We don't know.

    I guess some "older" and I don't know what that means, but some people may have a little immunity because of past exposure to Type A viruses.

    I think you can get special masks that are supposed to filter out viral particles - otherwise, yeah, it's more about infected people not spreading the contagion, and the point about not touching your mouth/nose is a good one also.


    Isn't what's killing people is (none / 0) (#19)
    by nycstray on Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 02:24:35 AM EST
    a pneumonia like effect. I thought I read the lungs are draining into themselves and it's like drowning. Which would fit in with the assurance of respirators being available here.

    All I can say is I'm glad I work at home right now. Until they get this sorted, I would prefer not to be on a crowded subway 2x a day. I was in the local drug store one winter and someone did cough on me. I was there trying to find some relief from some serious back pain and what I did NOT need was the worst muscle aching flue/fever that resulted. Boy, did I want my mommy with that one . . .

    What sucks is that it's high allergy season here right now. Hands away from eyes and nose is a tough one! And who knows why someone is sneezing/coughing? Hopefully they have this figured out by fall in case it decides to do the full on then.

    I've basically decided not to worry about it too much. Just try and stay informed. Our Mayor isn't the hysterical type, so I think we're good to go on that front.


    36,000 die every year from flu (and the resulting. (none / 0) (#21)
    by Salo on Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 10:41:44 AM EST
    ..complications)   So yes--wash your hands and be careful about touching your mouth and other holes in your face.

    36,000/year in the US alone. (none / 0) (#22)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 11:10:09 AM EST
    Not right (none / 0) (#24)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 06:27:41 PM EST
    This is potentially far more dangerous than ordinary seasonal flu because in Mexico, at least, it's provoking the dread "cytokine storm," a wild overreaction of the immune system, and thus killing mostly the young and healthy.  That was the signature of the 1918 pandemic.

    That is not the impression I got (none / 0) (#26)
    by Anne on Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 06:44:26 PM EST
    listening to the CDC guy this afternoon taking questions from the media (whose questions were, for the most part, pretty good).  And it wasn't just an impression - for one, they don't feel they have enough information yet to know if it's more virulent: everyone who asked about virulence, at least when I was listening, was told they were still collecting information and samples and working with WHO, etc. and would post updated info on their website.

    I'm not saying that what you have described as occurring in Mexico isn't happening, but the CDC isn't seeing that - yet - in the cases reported in this country.  But - there are a lot of people to test since anyone who sees a doctor, whether it is in a hospital or office or doc-in-a-box, gets swabbed and the swabs get refrigerated and then collected or sent to the health department - chances are good that a lot of people who get tested won't be testing positive for H1N1.

    I think a calm and measured approach to all of this is the best course of action; do whatever it is you do every flu season and don't panic.  Heck, I went to the store this afternoon, and took advantage of the wipes the store has in a dispenser just inside the door - I wiped the cart handles, and my hands, and then and wiped off again after I put the groceries in the car and returned the cart.


    I agree entirely on precautions (none / 0) (#27)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 08:29:07 PM EST
    That's also the universal advice I'm hearing repeatedly from the folks on TV and seeing in the papers.

    You're right that so far, it seems to be milder here than in Mexico, but there's no reasonable explanation for that yet and it may simply be an artifact of the smaller number of cases so far and being on the tail end of the flu season by the time it got here.  They don't know yet, and we have to wait to see how it develops.

    But if you look into the CDC statements, you'll find that they are absolutely saying that one of the most worrisome things about it is that the people in Mexico who've died have almost all been young, healthy people with robust immune systems, not the elderly or very young or very sick.  Look up "cytokine storm" in Wikipedia for a pretty good explanation of it.

    That happens with a new virus a population's immune system doesn't recognize at all, meaning that there's little immunity to it and it can spread very, very rapidly.  It's the hallmark of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and also of SARS.

    It's also true that this kind of potentially epidemic virus comes in several waves.  Spanish flu in 1917 wasn't all that serious, but when it came back in 1918 and again in 1919, it was devastating.

    This will probably die out fairly soon for this year, but CDC et al will be scrambling to be ready for it to potentially reappear much more seriously with next year's flu season.


    LAT sd. ok to eat well-cooked pork. (none / 0) (#13)
    by oculus on Mon Apr 27, 2009 at 10:12:38 PM EST

    You cannot get (none / 0) (#25)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 06:28:34 PM EST
    the flu from eating pork products, well-cooked or even raw.  It simply cannot be transmitted that way.

    LAT agrees, but probably sd. (none / 0) (#28)
    by oculus on Wed Apr 29, 2009 at 12:40:57 AM EST
    make sure the pork is well-cooked to avoid other maladies.

    quick note (none / 0) (#20)
    by Salo on Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 10:40:23 AM EST
    flu and resulting complications kill about 36,000 in the US every year.