The Global State of H1N1 (the Swine Flu )

Hasan A. Yahya, Ph.Ds


This article argue that H1N1 in modern age, like SARS in the 1930s, need to be globally managed far from narrow national political policy making. Therefore, This analysis will not deal with symptoms or methods of prevention. Apart from killing at least 2,185 people worldwide, the H1N1 virus – popularly known as the Swine Flu – has sown great confusion and more than normal uncertainty about the future. It was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a pandemic, which simply means a global threat.

To report regional comparative analysis, there are certain notes about data collected or reported. Understanding what data means among researchers is important to understand the situation of the H1N1 disease. Because it is limited to certain methods of reporting ( official or non-official), daily or weekly, rates or actual numbers,  regional or global, Therefore, worldwide tally of deaths can be seen as an indicator for comparative analysis according to these methods of reporting. However, According to the regional factor, we may compare Arab and Muslim countries, or the Mediterranean Region (MR) the rate and numbers of death cases, differ from other nations in the West or South America regions.  While the highest number of case in Egypt was in June 2009, 185, more than double of that number was reported in Argentina (453 death cases). The number of deaths in the United States was 408. Australia 75, United kingdom 33. Brazil 103.


The above data shows that Arab and Muslim countries as developing countries are more immune than advanced countries such as the United States as an example (408 deaths). While no death or very small number of death reported in the Arab and Muslim countries. [Egypt 1,Indonesia 4, Iraq 1,Lebanon 1, Malaysia 8,Qatar 1, and Saudi Arabia 4]. For some Muslim scholars, they claim, that these numbers give confirmation that Arab and Muslim countries, who profess Islamic rules concerning swine prohibition have more ability to immune themselves than other countries [Especially Christian countries which legally use productions of swine ). But lack of research in this area of correlation between religion and H1N1 disease, reduces the value of such claim. 


H1N1 and SARS: The H1N1 or the Swine Flu was compared to other disease known as SARS, were quarantine measures heavily used in the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, were instituted by countries such as China in handling the threat of H1N1 as if they were a silver bullet for all infectious diseases. Quarantine (which is derived from the Italian “quarantina” or about forty in recognition of the number days of isolation imposed by the City of Venice during the Bubonic Plague of the 14th century) proved futile to stop the spread of the 1918 Spanish Flu even when vigorously enforced in military units. The same holds true in the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic. By June 18 (the date of the most recent epidemiological data available), only 23 confirmed cases in China were identified through involuntary quarantine. SARS has been spreading through populations in Asia and elsewhere. For scientists, the epidemiology is difficult, in part because of the variable response by individuals, institutions, and governments to a new and dangerous disease. Nonetheless, a coherent picture of the epidemic is beginning to emerge. Epidemiologists look for contemplating a list of basic questions about how and why the disease caused by this coronavirus SARS. By piecing together preliminary data on the course of infection, and by making use of accumulating case notifications, two studies reported by Lipsitch et al. and Riley et al. in Science Express (May 2003) give the first quantitative assessment of the epidemic potential of SARS. Their main message was that this new coronavirus is sufficiently transmissible to cause a very large epidemic if unchecked, but not so contagious as to be uncontrollable with good, basic public health measures. Both groups of researchers make use of dynamic mathematical models in which individuals progress through mutually exclusive classes containing susceptible, exposed (latent), infectious, and recovered (immune) individuals.


Historically In September 1988, a previously healthy 32-year-old pregnant woman was hospitalized for pneumonia and died 8 days later. A swine H1N1 flu virus was detected. Four days before getting sick, the patient visited a county fair swine exhibition where there was widespread influenza-like illness among the swine. In follow-up studies, 76% of swine exhibitors tested had antibody evidence of swine flu infection but no serious illnesses were detected among this group. Additional studies suggest that one to three health care personnel who had contact with the patient developed mild influenza-like illnesses with antibody evidence of swine flu infection.  The H1N1 swine viruses have been known to circulate among pig populations since at least 1930, H3N2 influenza viruses did not begin circulating among US pigs about seventy years later (until 1998). The H3N2 viruses initially were introduced into the pig population from humans. The current swine flu H3N2 viruses are closely related to human H3N2 viruses.


Compared with SARS, , it is precisely the mildness of the H1N1 virus that poses one of the biggest challenges to global pandemic planning and control. Due to the high fatality rate of H5N1 – once considered the most likely candidate for the next flu pandemic, the WHO pandemic alert system focuses on the geographic spread of the pandemic flu. A full-fledged pandemic (“Phase 6”) can be announced provided there is evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission in two separate parts of the planet simultaneously. The rapid spread of a low virulent H1N1 (instead of a highly lethal H5N1) in 2009 thus lays bare the loophole of the WHO pandemic alert system. Within one week, the WHO alert level was raised to Phase 5, suggesting a pandemic was “imminent.” By May 8, the criteria for moving to the highest alert level had already been met, although the organization did not announce a full-blown pandemic until June 11, 2009.


In conclusion: H1N1 is similar to SARS.  It is not of local concern in one nation’s boarders, it is in fact, a global concern, or it should be.  This statement implies cooperation of nations and understanding for the pandemic H1N1, where every human being in this world is concerned, to be protected. This means, that public health threats should be further compromised as health is transformed from a humanitarian technical “low politics” issue to one that features prominently on the (pure) political agenda. In this case, ability of science is limited and directed to serve national concern rather than global one. Unless policy makers update their thinking about the threats of H1N1 disease and the strategies aimed at their solution in a globalized world. (1115 words)




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