Griepvirus of angstvirus?
Het virus dat zich momenteel het snelst verpreidt, is niet het griepvirus. Het 'swine flu'-virus mag dan wel heel wat mensen treffen, dat aantal blijft voorlopig te beperkt om van een pandemie te spreken. Elk jaar zijn er griepgolven, en die maken slachtoffers, vooral bij risicogroepen. Maar deze variant treft vooral de minst zwakke risicogroep, en dat verontrust de wetenschappers.
De Wereldgezondheidsorganisatie heeft net het gevaarniveau van deze griepvariant verhoogd. Enkele Q&A via
Another question that we have we haven't gotten to, actually, which is an important question, also on Twitter. "If a person has had the flu shot this year, is he or she protected? Does this person have a better chance of getting it, or would it just be a milder case?" Thank you.
Well, it doesn't appear that the flu shot really offers much in the way of protection, although it may offer some, and here's why.
This particular virus seems to be
a combination of several different strains: two strains of swine flu, one strain of bird flu and one strain of human flu.
It's the human flu that that flu shot may protect slightly against. So you're protecting against a part of the virus if that makes any sense.
But it's a very good idea to get your flu shot, for sure. Always think about that. But in terms of protecting for swine flu, it's not going to be enough.
We've got another question ... via Twitter this morning. And this is a question, of course, everybody is wanting to know the answer to: "Could this strain get out of control and mutate into something similar to the 1918 pandemic?"
Well, when you look at pandemics, they have several different qualities. They're usually a virus or some sort of pathogen the world has never seen before. They cause a lot of death, and they're sustainable in populations. We know that this is a new virus.
It is very hard to figure out just how deadly this is yet. We know that over 100 people have died here in
, but we don't know out of how many people who got sick. There are about 1,300 people who had serious illness, but there may be thousands more who had mild illness who never went to the hospital. So it's hard to tell how lethal this is.
So, you know, on one hand, in 1918, you didn't have global air travel. Nowadays, you do. So this virus can move around the world a lot faster. But right now, it doesn't seem like it's as lethal. You know, it's just early in this whole process to be able to tell.
Sanjay, one question that we haven't gotten to ... most of the people who died from swine flu in Mexico were in the prime of their lives really, and this usually hits infants or the elderly. What does that say to you as a doctor?
This is interesting. And the same thing happened in sort of a nonintuitive way when we were talking about SARS and when we were talking about avian flu.
Think about it like this: Typically, you think of someone who has a weakened immune system, who's going to be most adversely affected by an infection. Their immune system simply can't fight it.
But in these cases, it's the immune system itself that reacts robustly, and it's the immune system in that reaction to the virus that is causing death in these patients. So the virus starts that cascade, but all that fluid builds up in the lungs, and all those inflammatory cells throughout the body -- that's what's causing the problem. We saw the same thing with SARS and with avian flu as well.
Which is why exactly as you said ... [people in their] 20s and 30s and 40s, this hospital behind me, they say that's been the bulk of their patients with regard to swine flu.
You know, Sanjay, everybody knows that you're the sort of doctor that gets out there in the thick of things whenever something happens around the world -- any kind of public health emergency or disaster. And you're there in Mexico City, and a lot of people at home might be thinking, why the heck would Dr. Gupta want to go to a place where there's disease outbreak. What are you doing to protect yourself?
Well, we are trying to -- you know, we're clearly being very cautious here. We're not taking any chances. These masks can be helpful. But, you know, this is going to sound simple, but simply washing our hands. This is a virus that lives on keyboards, lives on money. We don't shake hands with people. That's the way it's probably being spread, and that's what we're trying to avoid.
But this is where it started. If we figure out what happened here, we may figure out what happened in the rest of the world.
Wat we dus weten is dat deze griep geen varkensgriep is, maar een kruising van een kip, een varken en een mens. Suggesties voor een naam mogen bij de comments gevoegd worden.
Tot nu toe is het griepvirus dus nog niet ernstiger gebleken dan andere griepepidemies. Maar de vrees bestaat dat het erger wordt. Als SARS (de Chinese 'griep', maar beter gezegd longontsteking in 2002-2003) iets heeft aangetoond, dan is het dat de angst werd overdreven. Er waren al bij al iets meer dan 100 overlijdens.
Jaarlijks zouden in Nederland alleen al meer dan 1000 mensen overlijden aan de gewone griepvirussen. De paniek over deze griepvariant is dus minstens overdreven.
Wat opvalt, is dat deze paniekgolf over de pandemie zo sterk gelijkt op
een van de risicoscenario's van het Global Risk Report van 2007 (zie extract in DS onder). Dat werd opgesteld door het WEF, world economic forum.
Dat scenario kunt u nalezen, en oogt niet fraai.
En sinds het financiële virus en de crisis die het veroorzaakte, kan je niet zeggen dat zo'n scenario niet kan. Pandemies zijn inderdaad van alle tijden, net zoals financiële crisissen.
Voorlopig zijn we echter nog niet zo ver, en is het angstvirus een grotere bedreiging voor de wereldeconomie dan het (varkens)griepvirus.