Sunday, May 03, 2009

Swine Flu H1N1

by Wilfred Bereswill

Since you can’t turn on the television or radio without hearing about the swine flu, I thought I’d blog a bit about the flu bug. As you may or may not know, A Reason For Dying, my first book is about a natural viral outbreak that’s mistaken for an act of terrorism. The sequel, A Reason For Terror is about the bird flu (H5N1).

So what is it about birds and pigs and flu that causes this connection? Well, birds and pigs are susceptible to human viruses. Also, flu strains tend to mutate in birds and pigs and then transfer to humans.

Another question to ask is why some strains of flu seem to be bad and some fizzle out with nary a cough and a sneeze. Flu strains constantly change. That’s why we can’t wipe them out like we have some other viruses. They are the smallest form of life and they are survivalist. Some strains just don’t do that much damage to the human anatomy and others don’t survive as long outside the body making them not as communicable. Many new flu strains seem to originate in Asia and one school of thought it is the way family farms are structured contribute to mutating flu strains.

Small farms in Asia are constrained for space. Chicken pens are suspended off the ground and the area beneath is used to raise pigs. The perfect environment for growing and culturing mutating flu strains. The birds (remember they are susceptible to human strains of flu) defecate and the pigs who live beneath them are exposed to the feces which can be contaminated with flu. The strain can mutate in the pigs and when they defecate, the farmers remove it and toss it in ponds which act as a nutrient for algae that carp (grass eating fish) eat.

However, ducks living in the ponds are then exposed to the viruses infected pig feces and the strain can mutate once again. Ducks are raised for food and during the processing, humans catch the flu and things go round and round.

It will be interesting to see how bad this particular strain winds up being and if all the hoopla is for naught.

The Blue Flu, The Spanish Lady, The Great Influenza… These were all names used for the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. It had more casualties than World War I. It is thought that the flu actually started, not in Spain as the name implies, but in 1917 in Kansas. Camp Funston at Fort Reilly. There were many reported cases of flu in troops that were preparing for the war.

The flu, went across the ocean with our troops, probably mutated there where it killed millions of people and then came back across the ocean with our troops to Camp Devens near Boston Mass.

This flu, seemed to target young healthy people rather than the old and young. Meaning that the troops that had survived the horrors of the war, returned to find themselves dying by an enemy that couldn’t be seen with the naked eye. In fact, it probably couldn’t be seen by any instrument in use at the time.

The flu ravaged the United States in 1919 and by the time the pandemic was over, a hundred million were dead.

Be careful out there, and don’t fool around with Mother Nature. I know I certainly need to since I have 2 days left this year if I’m sick. So, are you concerned about the flu? Or are you thinking all the hype is nothing to worry about?

Now to leave you with something happy. I found this little video and wanted to share.


Annette said...

What a fantastic video, Will. I'm all weepy and feeling warm and fuzzy now.

I have high hopes that this flu thing is much ado about nothing. The media makes such a fuss about things these days. Creating panic is what they do best.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Thanks Annette. I was having a rough blog night. I couldn't ever get the photos to fit in there correctly.

Loved the video. When I heard it, it just made me smile.

Jenna said...

Thanks for sharing, Will. Interesting stuff. I can't ever get the photos to fit in right, either.

Gina said...

Will -
What do you think about the theory that flu (and viruses in general) are really alien invaders, carried in the core of comets until, approaching the sun, the comets vent their gases and tiny viral particles fall through our atmosphere, then busily set about commandeering our cells to replicate themselves. Creepy, huh?

Dana King said...

I'm with Annette; I wish the media would calm down. It's the flu. So far, we have no reason to believe it will affect Americans any worse than the annual flu that passed through during flu season. We certainly have no knowledge whether it's any more communicable. I'm doing what I always do for flu season--clean hands, cover mouth, stay home f I feel flu-ey. I suspect I'll live through it.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Gina, I must say you have a very active imagination there. It is a fact that some virues and spores can withstand extremes, but to withstand the heat of entry through the atmosphere?

Now something that isn't as far fetched is that dinosaurs were decimated by virues because they didn't have the immunities built up. The largest life forms killed off by the smallest life forms.

By the way, plant spores can survive huge extremes. Leonardo the mumified dinosaur discovered in 2000 in Montana by my friend and a team of paleontologists had the spores of ferns still in its stomach. The link below takes you to a story on Leonardo.

Hey there Jennie, glad you stopped by.

Wilfred Bereswill said...


With the economy leveling out and no big news on the war, the media needs something to blow out of proportion.

I traveled throughout China during SARS and I lived. Personally, I think the Chinese Government covered up the extent of that outbreak. I believe it was much more widespread with many more victims than was ever released. But then the Chinese have a stranglehold on the in-country media.

Pat Remick said...

I agree about this media hype. They go from Obama to the economy to Susan Boyle to the flu. Of course concerns about the flu can distract us from our decimated retirement funds and fears that more people will lose their jobs.
Or maybe this is a terrorist attack taking a new form cuz the comet thing didn't work out...

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Well, Pat... My work in progress has a terrorist group stealing a virulent form of the Bird Flu (H5N1) and using it in a bioterror attack. But in light of the economic downturn, I'm not sure I'd cut it loose in Mexico hoping for US tourists to bring it home.

queenofmean said...

The media does have a tendency to over do things. Having said that, it certainly doesn't hurt to take some of the normal flu preventive measures.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Queen, You're right on. It would only be prudent to take reasonable precautions.

You won't see me refusing to shake someone's hand (unless they just blew their nowe in it, of course) or wearing a gauze mask, but taking the normal precautions is just common sense.

Patg said...

Thanks for the info Wilfred. My grandmother died in Canada of the flu in 1918. I always thought it wss called Swine Flu.
Wasn't there an outbreak of Swine at some other time?