Sunday, April 26, 2009

Buy Tamiflu stock... while you can?

Only news of late, and another reason why its great to live in the Sultanate of Oman everybody. Its a loooong way away from the USA.

Yes, it's 'The next new pandemic' - swine flu.

I'd recommend The Motley Fool's excellent analysis of the possible downsides.

Note the 'mortality rate' should be significantly less than 5% especially for a fit adult [5% is what it was for nastier SARS] - see article below from sensible Canada.

The problem compared to SARS will be old fashioned spreadability. So even here there will be a few cases, and it will as a result probably cause more total deaths globally than SARS or Bird Flu did. Note:

an influenza pandemic has the potential of killing thousands more because it will infect 35% of the population

Be sensible and don't panic.

But don't go round coughing and sneezing all over people either, especially me and my family.

I'd hate to have to waste good ammo...

No need to panic ... yet

Ontario officials are worried swine flu could be pandemic, killing thousands
Last Updated: 26th April 2009, 2:57am

This could finally be the global flu pandemic we've been warned is long overdue.

And if deadly SARS was just a dress rehearsal, Ontario health officials insist they are better prepared to face this unique swine flu that could potentially infect one in three Ontarians and kill more than 12,000 across the province.

"SARS gave us a good swift kick in the ass in terms of planning for the next event," said Dr. Michael Gardam, director of Infectious Disease Prevention and Control with the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion.

"We are erring on the side of caution and with cases being reported in New York City, which is just across the border, we have to assume we're going to have cases in Ontario."

After a day of conference calls and preparation strategy, a weary Gardam stopped short last night of predicting a pandemic but said, "we're getting closer and closer to reaching that stage.

"I would be surprised if we would be able to stop this. You can't really stop influenza."

Ontario health officials have been on high alert since Thursday when they first learned Mexico had an unusual spike in flu deaths. Those concerns escalated yesterday when WHO director-general Margaret Chan confirmed this strain of the H1N1 virus is now being transmitted from human to human and has "pandemic potential."

Dr. Allison McGeer, director of infection control at Mount Sinai Hospital, expects the United Nations health agency will soon raise its six-stage alert from its current level three to four or five, just short of declaring a full- on pandemic.

But she insists there is no need to panic.

"This is a new influenza virus that is moving from human to human," she explained, "that doesn't mean automatically that it will be the next pandemic. And if it is, we don't know how long it will be until it gets here."

She suspects it could be several months before it reaches Canada and "that will give us time to make a vaccine."

Watching footage of worried Mexicans outfitted in hospital masks brings back painful memories for Torontonians who lived through the frightening spring of 2003.

"It will be nothing like SARS," warned Gardam, whose Ontario agency was created to better deal with another infectious disease outbreak.

Where SARS killed 44 in the GTA, he said an influenza pandemic has the potential of killing thousands more because it will infect 35% of the population.

"Everybody's a little worried," admitted McGeer, who was quarantined for SARS herself.

"For hospitals and health-care workers who lived through SARS, it's really difficult. They're saying, 'I'm going to have to live through this again?'

"For health-care workers in Toronto, this is going to be a hard challenge to rise to, but I have no doubt they will rise to the challenge. But it's not easy."


Because the numbers who will fall ill are frightening.

In last year's Ontario Health Plan for an Influenza Pandemic, officials estimate a probable death toll of 12,303 people, though as many as 20,000 could die if it is a particularly severe strain. And it predicts the crisis will not be a quick one -- the plan says a pandemic usually spreads in two to three waves, three to nine months apart.

SARS was relatively short and contained, with a 5% mortality rate. A flu pandemic will last longer and won't be as lethal, yet more will die because so many more will be infected.

"With SARS, the highest transmission was in hospitals," McGeer explained. "That's not true of influenza. The transmission is absolutely everywhere. It's going to be everybody at risk."

The pandemic plan predicts 35% of Ontarians will be sick enough to take time off work and 53,000 will be hospitalized but recover.

The plan also admits that a vaccine can only be developed four to five months after the pandemic starts, and will "initially be in short supply and high demand."

The good news, said Gardam, is that this new swine flu appears to respond to Tamiflu and the Canadian government has stockpiled enough of the anti-viral drug to treat the expected 25% of the population who will need it.

"The other glimmer of hope we've seen is that this strain likely is not going to be super nasty," Gardam said.

So hopefully, he added, this will be more like the Hong Kong pandemic than the Spanish one.

During the last century, the world experienced three influenza pandemics with the most serious, the Spanish flu of 1918-19, blamed for killing between 40 and 50 million people. The last pandemic, the 1968 Hong Kong flu, killed one million.

With usually 30 years between outbreaks of a deadly new global influenza strain, scientists have been warning for more than a decade that it was coming.

And it seems the time is now.

"I'm tired, we're all tired but I wouldn't say we're nervous," said Gardam of the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion. "We've been planning for this since 2003."

As for McGeer of Mount Sinai, she insisted it's far too early for us to worry -- which is easier said than done.

"It's a gorgeous day," she said. "Get back to your garden."


  1. Good old sensible Canada ;)

    SARS was a scary time.

    The problem is that people here just cough and sneeze (and spit) whenever they have to all over the place. They don't cover their faces, except the ladies with covered faces ;)

    It's like they haven't been educated on how to prevent the spread of disease which could be why HIV is particularly high here as well.

    Take my office for example.

    I've had to tell people not to hock loogies in the kichen sink and hang a sign in the washroom about washing hands before they leave the room.

    It's like they're toddlers and I'm a babysitter.

    The Ministry of Health should really do a public awareness compaign on the importance of hand washing. Every other first world country agrees that hand washing is the single most important thing you can do to prevent disease.

  2. Angry In Oman:

    I told you in your blog what you need to do to relax a bit and not be angry any more, try it in the kitchen once for a change. Try a 19 year old boy.

    From all the great Canadians I met, I have to say you stand as an exception. Racist.

    Back to the subject, I hope North Americans are able to contain the "swine flu" so we don't lose anymore lives. May god bless us all.

  3. I'm not racist at all, I dislike everyone equally. But I especially don't like those who don't wash their hands after they use the toilet, and cough, sneeze and spit all over the place.

    Besides who the fuck are you to tell me to do anything?

    UD, did you see the On 2nd Thought in last week's The Week?

  4. Hello, stop fighting on irrelevant issues. talk about the swine flu. it has reached the shores of europe. it will soon reach muscat unless the authorities take urgent steps like stopping all incoming flights.

  5. Angry In Oman:

    Keep burning your life with anger, what a waste of human breath. Racist breath.


    I don't think stopping all incoming flights are an option, that would have severe impact on the economy, but we could take positive steps like:

    warning people from traveling to infected areas

    Checking people who come from these countries for possible signs of infection (catch angry in oman and check her for possible multiple infections)

    Educate people about the "swine flu"

  6. My husband has cancer, His immune system is shot. he has been told he should take Tamiflu every day during the flu season. The insurance pays fro 10 pills every three months, and our co-pay is $60. In one Walgreens pharmacy in Florida we have been alerted to the fact that if your doctor prescribes tamifly "from government stock" you only pay $10 per thirty pills.
    Why is this possibility not made available to all and by all pharmacies???
    Upset Wife


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