“Less Dangerous” American Swine Flu?
Over at TPM Josh Marshall, who really should know better, makes a throwaway comment about the “mystery” of the American strain of the Swine Flu being, “much less virulent” than the one circulating in Mexico. This is something that, across multiple blogs, I’ve seen claimed over the last two days. It really needs to be addressed.
To do that, we need to discuss a basic question: why is this particular form of Influenza so threatening? Because it falls outside of predictable patterns for this disease. Where normally the flu needs to take out the very young, the very old, and the very sick, the strain that spread during this pandemic of 1918-19 killed by triggering a type of fatal immune reaction in otherwise healthy young and middle-aged people called a “Cytokine storm.” We seem to be seeing a similar pattern among the deaths in Mexico.
It’s really, therefore, far too soon to proclaim that the “American” version of the disease is somehow different or less fatal. Not only have there only been a handful of cases, but the demographic breakdown of those cases that we know some details of (IE - the Queens high school students) suggests that most of the known infected fall outside of the most vulnerable demographic subgroup.