At least one D.H.E.C. official says he’s anticipating a worldwide influenza pandemic in a matter of days or weeks, based on the word of leading scientists.
The World Health Organization has specific measurements for assessing whether a spread of disease will be considered a pandemic, which is merely a worldwide epidemic.
Epidemiologist Dr. Robert Ball co-chairs the South Carolina Pandemic Influenza Ethics Task Force. He says the pandemic declaration would not be without merit. “The best experts in the world predict that this ‘H-1-N-1″ virus will soon become a bonafide pandemic, and that propagation throughout the general populous will continue for weeks, if not months. After that, predictions become fuzzy, and only time will tell.”
While the regular seasonal flu has resulted in the death of around 250 people in South Carolina annually in recent years, a pandemic could kill thousands in one year.
Ball says there is historical precedent for such an outbreak. ” This will be similar to the so-called Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918, where many people did not get any medical care; however, our new plan includes resources for folks getting some type of care, regardless of their ability to pay or where they are, even to the point of comfort care for those whose medical prognosis is dismal.”
But another D.H.E.C. Epidemiologist, Jerry Gibson, uses a more calming demeanor. He says that a pandemic does not exist yet, and may not come about.
Governments in countries around the world are taking the swine flu threat very seriously. Egyptian officials have ordered that all 300,000 pigs in the country be slaughtered, even though health officials don’t see any connection between swine and the disease. Pigs are banned entirely in some Muslim countries because of religious restrictions. They are raised in Egypt for consumption by the country’s Christian minority. China, Russia and Ukraine are among countries that have banned pork imports from Mexico and parts of the U.S.
Some countries, like Argentina, have banned travel to Mexico.
At airports in several countries, thermal cameras are trained on airline passengers to see if any are feverish. But officials question whether the practice actually works to locate ill people.