Friday, 12 June 2009


Finally. The World Health Organization (WHO) has gotten around to declaring what everyone else knew for weeks. We have a real, true, honest, full-blown pandemic with A/H1N1 influenza. The disease can be passed easily from person to person. About 29,000 confirmed cases world-wide, with 144 deaths. The disease has spread to multiple countries in every continent (including Australia, a country that thinks of itself as a continent). That's "Level 6" in WHO language. It doesn't get any worse. Technically.

That "technically" is significant. The Level 6 declaration recognizes the extent to which the disease has spread geographically, not the severity of the situation (which is the more important issue). In Canada, where we could have 3,000 to 4,000 deaths in a "normal" 'flu season, we've had FOUR deaths attributed to A/H1N1 (this latest monster 'flu). Four deaths; not four thousand.

So, wash your hands when you get home from being wherever. Wash before meals. Sneeze into your elbow. Etc.

I'm not suggesting we should ignore the problem. I am suggesting, as usual, that we keep the whole thing in its appropriate context. "Let's be careful out there," continues to be the appropriate phrase.

One other thought. One way to possibly curb the spread of this illness: wash your hands before you send an e-mail or blog post. You can trust the Bear on that. ;)

Saturday, 6 June 2009


I was at a meeting of our health region's ethics committee this week, and guess what got mentioned? Yup; A/H1N1 Influenza.

I raised with my colleagues the potential problem with the World Health Organization's mathematical model of influenza prediction. One of my colleagues, a physician (who shall remain nameless), said perhaps the mathematical model is "only for pandemics that count." At which we all laughed.

The latest statistics I have show the WHO has recorded about 22,000 cases of A/H1N1 influenza around the world, with 125 deaths. So the death rate is about 0.5% of those infected.

With the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) situation in 2003, there were only about 8,100 cases recorded world-wide, but 775 deaths. The death rate then was 9.5% of those infected.

Bit of a difference between those two outbreaks.

So, there are pandemics, and there are PANDEMICS (as in pandemics that count).

Indeed, the WHO itself seems to have come to the same conclusion. It's thinking about reporting a "severity assessment" with any change of pandemic level alert.

Hey; have those people been reading my mind (or my blog)?

Monday, 1 June 2009


So, let's get this straight.

1. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), when there is "efficient and sustained human-to-human transmission" of an influenza outbreak. That is a Level 6 problem -- a full-blown Pandemic.

2. According to the WHO's most recent update, On June 1, there area bout 17,500 cases of A/H1N1 flu internationally, with 115 deaths. That's level 6, technically.

3. Somehow, though, I think there's something wrong with the mathematic model the WHO is using to predict and declare pandemic situations. Level 6 should mean that people are dying like flies caught in a brush fire. But that's not happening.

P.S.: Just don't go on any Australian cruise ships for a while.