Sunday, May 31, 2009

H1N1 gets closer, but all seems OK so far...

Sometimes this H1N1/swine flu seems like it was just a conspiracy to sell all that excess stock of close-to-expiry-date Tamiflu that Governments around the world accumulated during the bird flu threat. So far H1N1 does not seem anything worse than typical flu. I hope it stays that way!

The GCC now has some confirmed cases, and Muscat Airport are screening people's temperatures on arrival with infra-red. We will get a case here eventually. Meanwhile keep washing hands regularly and avoid touching your face. Carry a small bottle of hand sanitiser with you. Its good advise even without swine flu - there are plenty of other potential nasties out there anyhow.

You can get a great map on H1N1's progress around the world here.

Pic: Swine flu - Google maps is a great tool for interactive mapping...

It didn't help either that the Ministry of Health sent a general spam SMS in Arabish that sort of implied (at least to native English speakers) that we had had our first case in Oman. It was the talk of the town on Thursday... Here's the helpful SMS

"Oman is free from H1N1 Flu (previously known as Swine Flu) til today. The Ministry of Health is closely monitring the situation and is prepared for response... Flu Hotline 99851003"

Meanwhile, friendly local law firm Curtis Oman have posted about the details of Oman's recent Emergency Powers Decree of last year on their rather useful website for things legal.

The law states:

State of Emergency Law
First, the law provides that the state of emergency may be declared when the security and public order is subject to a dangerous situation. This may include any situation posing a threat to society or state security. Examples of such situations include:

• War or threat of war;

• Internal criminal disturbances;

• Public calamity; or
• The spread of an epidemic or plague.
The state of emergency declaration is made through a Royal Order specifying the emergency situation, the area covered and the date of effect.

Second, the law requires the National Security Council to issue orders to protect safety and public order. It also provides additional authority to the government to respond to the emergency. For example, during the state of emergency the National Security Council may issue orders to the Royal Oman Police to take the following emergency response measures:

• Restrict individual liberties and rights to move, reside, and pass through specific locations at certain times;
• Take into custody anyone threatening public order;
• Specify timings and require closure of public places;
• Monitor all kinds of correspondence and information, and seize, confiscate, or destroy the correspondence and information;
• Evacuate or isolate certain regions, including by closing roads;
• Temporarily acquire any property;
• Utilize services of any person, depending on the functions that are required in the situation; and
• Prohibit employees from leaving work.
The law provides that the government will give reasonable remuneration if it temporarily acquires property or utilizes the services of any person to respond to the emergency.

The law also allows for the National Security Council to involk the use of the Army if required too.


  1. UD - if you divide the number of deaths worldwide by the number of confirmed cases you get a death rate of only 0.6% (and falling, presumably as reporting gets more accurate), which is a lot less than seasonal flus. So the panic generated during the Mexican outbreak (when overall cases were no doubt underreported) now appears to have been completely unjustified.

    It therefore seems pointless worrying about this one and I can only assume that, the threat having been hyped-up, no government wants to be accused of being complacent.

    My take on this is that we just carry on as normal, catch the flu if we're going to, and recover as we would for any other flu.


  2. The worry from a disease is not caused whether the infected person dies from it or not, it is more of a case of the recovery time that the disease offers. Normal 'flu infects and infects and does whatever it wants (leave it alone, fine in 7 days, treat it and you'll be fine in a week!:)). The animal-mutated 'flu virus that is floating around infects normally, but offers a recovery time of not more than a couple of hours, after which it 'has' to kill ya. Thus the widespread panic. The panic is not that it is super-infective or super-penerative or super-lethal (as in your organs shall start falling off) but just that the recovery time offered is not enough as per our current way of dealing with flu.
    As a SARS expert puts it, if this strain muitates with H5N1, "I'm going to lock myself in my lab and never come out"....

    It's never.. "just flu"
    *cue jaws theme music*

    More reading:

  3. FK, I don't understand this "couple of hours to recover or you're dead" business. A death rate is just that: of every thousand people who catch this disease, on average 6 die from it and the rest recover. that is what the data says.


  4. That is what has happened in today's world as a result of this infecting a 1000 people, 6 have died. But what has not been taken into account is 'why' those 6 died. Is it just a matter of numbers? If 6 people have died then no matter what, the 7/1000th shall not die? Does the virus retract its killing abilities after claiming its 6th victim? No. These are just stats based on this iteration of the flu's behaviour.
    Whilst seeing the effect of h1n1 on the individual, the 'deadly' part of the virus is the way it interacts with its host.

    (this might get a wee bit long, with your permission UD).

    Viruses (and specifically 'flu) viruses need to break into 2 parts to be successful. 1 part infects and the other replicates and grows. Ideally, the replicating part should be close to transmission tools of the human body, i.e. it should infect the upper respiratory tract for spreading through sneezes and cough and breath. The attack part should be bit more 'inside' to be properly deadly, to properly affect the lungs and all.
    Thanks to the powers-that-be, viruses have not evolved to break this effeciently yet. Swine flu was an upper respiratory infection, much like most types of flu. Avian flu (h5n1), otoh, is deep affecting but not easily spreading. Spanish flu (1918) was both, thus it was "the most deadly epidemic" ever.
    This swine flu had strains of all the above-mentioned, bird-genes, human genes and pig genes. Thus, initially, it 'was' deep affecting and easily spreading. But then, since it is ever-mutating, it lost the deep-part and the spread part was left.
    Thus, in its initial phases, ince the infection started, the patient had a small amount of time to halt the spread of the virus. After a certain threshold was/is crossed, nothing would help. The stats of 6 out of 1000 are overall stats. I believe if we can get stats to exclude the initial period, they'd be much much lower.


  5. That law sounds like it was ripped right out of the USA Patriot Act book!


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