Remember April? This past spring we had our first world-wide flu-pandemic fire drill. But like fourth-graders huddled on the tarmac in the rain, it all seemed a bit silly in retrospect, didn't it? Especially since we bumbled around, not preventing anything. But hey, nobody got burned, right?
Um, well, no, not exactly. More accurately, we lost some folks - painfully. A few, sure, but for each one of them, it was devastating.
And the future remains unknown. The H1N1 is sort of like a Frankenvirus - a form of Influenza A that combines the DNA of swine, avian and human flu viruses. And now those guys in charge are starting to smell smoke again, and see gray drifts rising on the horizon.
There's no siren sounding yet, but is it time to re-worry about the H1N1 (aka swine) flu? And if so, what can reasonable people do about it?
Here are nine alarming signs that have the principals of public health worried:
1) This virus likes the young and healthy.
2) Drug resistance is here.
3) This virus loves lung tissue.
5) This virus doesn't like to grow in a dish. The fact that H1N1 defies our attempts to mass-produce it means we're not likely to have the kind of dead-virus amounts we usually have for both research and vaccine development.
6) The ugly side of globalization - will our country even get the vaccines we bought?
7) This virus knows how to rack up frequent-flyer miles.
8) The horse is out of the barn.
9) The numbers are going up, here and abroad.
Looked at altogether, in just the last two weeks a very worrying picture is starting to emerge. So is everyone now feeling a bit freaked out?
What can a reasonable person do, with a little advance warning?
1) Practice handwashing.
2) Get your vitamin D level up.
4) Make a school-closure plan.
5) Pregnant (or trying-to-get-pregnant) women and kids first!
6) Don't let the virus hitch a ride on your next flight.
7) New habit time: keep your hands away from your face.
Staying both sane and healthy can be challenging tasks when so much is unknown. No one, not even the best experts with the biggest computers in the stainless steel labs where people wear astronaut helmets and pipette pink fluid, not even they can predict the future. But some simple steps may be worth the additional effort. Share the info with friends and be well.