Karen Ocamb

HIV+ People Be Aware of Swine Flu

Filed By Karen Ocamb | April 28, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Barack Obama, HIV/AIDS, influenza, Kim-Farley, LA County Department of Public Health, swine flu, swine flu symptoms, Tamilflu

Elected and public health officials are walking a fine line between expressing serious concern and provoking alarm over a new strain of swine flu that has killed 149 people in Mexico. The World Health Organization raised the threat level yesterday to the possibility of a pandemic and the swine_flu.jpgCenters for Disease Control recommended that Americans cease all "nonessential" travel to Mexico.

During a speech to the National Academy of Sciences, President Barack Obama said:

"We are closely monitoring the emerging cases of swine flu in the United States, and this is obviously a cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert. But it's not a cause for alarm."

But people with compromised immune systems - such as people with HIV/AIDS - need to be vigilant and take special precautions.

Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, Director of Communicable Disease Control and Prevention at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, told me earlier today that people with compromised immune systems - such as people with HIV/AIDS - are not more at risk for catching the new flu, but there is a greater concern about the severity of the disease.

However, Kim-Farley adds:

"We don't want to be alarmist about it. To date, there are 40 confirmed cases in the US and they are all mild illnesses. The main thing is that if an individual comes back from Mexico with symptoms or has contact with someone who is ill, they should seek medical care. The medication Tamilfu, if given in the first 48 hours, reduces the severity of the disease."

The flu symptoms are: fever, runny nose, lethargy, sore throat, lack of appetite, nausea, coughing and diarrhea.

Kim-Farley says the best prevention is to wash your hands frequently; don't touch your hands to your nose, eyes, or mouth; cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough; and if you're ill, stay home.

He says:

"We are asking people to practice good health behaviors out of respect for your own health, as well as respect for the well-being of others."

The US government is closely monitoring the situation "leaning forward" to be prepared should the disease continue to escalate. He says:

"They are taking an abundance of caution to stay ahead of this...and watching closely how it continues to evolve. " Flu strains "do have the tendency to mutate so we're watching it very carefully."

The Public Health website will be continually updated.

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Thanks for sharing this, Karen. This is good information for people to have.


Where's the HIV/AIDS tie-in to the Swine Flu virus?


Barb Lamont | April 28, 2009 5:30 PM

In 1918:

In large U.S cities, more than 10,000 deaths per week were attributed to the virus. It is estimated that as many as 50% of the population was infected, and ~1% died. To compare, in "normal" (interpandemic) years, it is estimated that between 10-20% of the population is infected, with a .008% mortality.

The fact the current 'swine flu' has shown to be contagious is alarming. So far the virus has shown to have a 6% to 6.3% mortality rate. It may not seem like much, but please consider the following: The deadly influenza panic in 1918 had a mortality rate of under 1%.

This virus went on to kill tens of thousands of healthy people a day in large cities and up to 100 million people world wide.

Viruses, like this strain of swine flu, kill their host by over-stimulating active immune systems that are robust and healthy. That is why the victims in Mexico were between the ages of 20 and 45.

Some have said that no one in the United States have died from the virus, so we need not worry. Experts say it is only a matter of time. The virus is not prevalent enough to reach statistical significance in the United States, with only a handful of confirmed cases. 93.7% of all Mexicans with the virus recovered.

More cause for worry: The 1918 virus started off 'mild' before it mutated into a raging storm. It also does not mean we will see millions of deaths. It is too early to draw sweeping conclusions. Nevertheless, there is potential for a disastrous pandemic. If 50% of Americans catch this flu in the next two years, and the mortality rate stays at 6.3%, we would witness 20+ million deaths.

This strain of virus is more potent and more deadly than the virus that hammered the world in 1918 and 1919. Viruses come in waves. There are striking similarities to this virus and the virus that killed up to 100 million people in 1918. The first wave is historically more mild than the later waves.

In addition to this virus becoming more severe, it is mutating faster than previous virus that we have seen. In addition, this virus is nothing like we have ever seen before because it combines features from viruses natural in different parts of the globe. We are in uncharted territory.

If it follows the same path as the 1918 flu, we will see very damaging results. However, we must remember we are a global society now and the virus can spread quicker than we have ever witnessed in history. This is very concerning especially since the drugs we have now seem resistant.

While there have been no deaths in America, it is shadowed by the fact the common variable among the deaths seem to be age. While most American cases have involved the very young and very old (under 10 and over 50) the Mexican cases that ended fatally involved the robust and healthy (over 20 and under 45).

This virus kills the host by over-stimulating the immune system. The term that is used when the immune system over reacts is called a Cytokine Storm. It is usually fatal. During this “Storm” over 150 inflammatory mediators are released. This would account for the high mortality rate in 1918-19.


Good point. With a flu like this, people can't expect to tough it out at home.