The Daybook is posting NPR email messages

April 30, 2009

This just crossed the inbox from NPR in Washington. I personally haven't been too gung-ho about chasing down every iota of swine flu news, but then again, what do I know? I'm guessing not as much as Joe Neel. (Bolding mine.)

From NPR Health Editor Joe Neel:

NPR ALERT LEVEL: It's still a series of OUTBREAKS in several states and countries. No epidemics, no pandemic.

But WHO raises global pandemic alert level to phase 5 - pandemic is "imminent." And says phase 6 might not be too far away. (That's when they say a pandemic is really happening.)

WEDNESDAY'S EVENTS:

--first U.S death

--WHO declares stage 5 pandemic alert (on a scale of 6)

--Obama says schools should close if suspect or confirm cases of swine flu

--HHS says swine flu vaccine ready by September, if needed

SOME QUESTIONS:

How can we go from pandemic stage 4 to 5 in a day - How is all of this happening so fast? Flu has an incubation period of 24-48 hours. It doesn't take long for it to go from regional clusters to statewide to countrywide and then international. That happens in every flu season. All signs are now pointing to a worldwide swine flu pandemic, but we can't say it's really happening just quite yet.

How deadly will it be? The great 1918 pandemic, which used to be called the "Spanish flu" by the way, had a death rate of 2-2.5%. A smaller world meant 2% of the world's population equals 20 to 40 million dead. Fast forward to our world of 6.8 billion, and that works out to 136 million deaths. That's the worst case. Nobody is predicting that.

But you can see that if the virus is 1% lethal and spreads worldwide, you'd get 60+ million deaths. A serious human tragedy, both in terms of lives lost and economies (futher) devastated.

But so far, there's no way to tell how deadly this H1N1 swine flu virus will be. It might only be 0.1% fatal. Or less, even.

Yikes. NPR has deployed reporters to Mexico, and is hashing out some inconsistencies in the numbers coming out from health officials south of the border. They've also got a pledge from the head of the CDC to be on air "every day, or close to it."
On a Lighter Note
Tonight is Game 6 of what some are calling the best NBA playoff series of all time. That might be a bit over the top, but there's no doubt that the Celtics - Bulls match-up has been epic. I'm not a fan of either team, but I can't stop watching. I'll be forced to though, if the Bulls lose Game 6 at the United Center today - they'll be eliminated.
Other Points of Note Daley and Quinn are both having Chicago events. We'll cover. Let's see if they are wearing masks.

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