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Sunday: She’s a supergeek, supergeek, she’s super geeky.

For those of you still interested in the H1N1 influenza, I have some orgasmic youtube selections for you.

But first, a few words why the H1N1 flu is still relevent.  Check out one of the latest posts from the WHO for information about vaccines.  Here’s the lowdown: the H1N1 virus is in 17 countries as of last count and although it looks like a mild case of flu, the sucker is biding its time, figuring out which genetic combinations work in its human hosts.  This is not an unusual phase in the lifespan of an epidemic.  During the summer months, the flu may seem to fade away, making the recent media hype seem like Much Ado About Nothing.  If it turns out that the Obama administration used the flu to ram through its appointments to HHS and the CDC, that would be a pretty cynical thing to do.  The media might feel like it was used and not cover this problem as diligently as it should.  The media has already shot its reputation to bits over everything else.  Making it less credible in future emergencies is really not helpful.

Anyway, the H1N1 virus is out there.  WHO says that closing the borders is moot at this point and would be disruptive to commerce.  Given the latency period of the virus, up to 7 days, the flu could spread among seemingly healthy people before there is any indication that there are clusters of sick.  So, now we wait.  If public health officials are unable to contain the spread by following up on reported cases, it increases the likelihood that we will see the return of H1N1 in the fall.  This flu is different from the seasonal flu and appears to be a result of antigenic shift rather than antigenic drift.  To find out what the difference is, I highly recommend the following selections in order of geekiness.  Choose your geek level.

If you are a history geek but not really technical, go with An Interview with John M. Barry regarding his book, The Great Influenza.  Barry has written about the Spanish Flu of 1918 from a historical perspective and discusses the advances of medicine at the time.  You might be mildly surprised to learn that medicine was not nearly as crude back then as we tend to think.

If you are conversant in geek but not fluent, check out Influenza Pandemics: Past and Future from the Research Channel.  This is NOVA level geekiness.  The lecturer’s presentation is excellent and easy to follow.

If you are into supergeek and know what RNA polymerase, trimer and 5′ to 3′ means, go directly to Dr. Donald Ganem’s lecture on Emerging Infections: How epidemics arise on the Research Channel.  There are high school students in the audience and they look perfectly normal so if they can handle it, you probably can too.

I’m a big believer in Knowledge is Power.  Stuff is a lot less scary and people can make more rational decisions when they educate themselves.  Knowing what to expect with respect to new strains of influenza can help us keep our heads the next time the media goes on a full blown panic attack and will keep the propagandists from yanking our chains.

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29 Responses

  1. It’s God’s judgment on Obama !!!

  2. Thanks RD. This is a terrific round up.

  3. Hi RD — thanks…ps: odd to see who owns stock in Tamiflu?
    easily googled.

    ps: The youtubes are all messed up? Here and at Uppitys. I see they have been swapped out for something I don’t think you meant to put? And at my place the same thing happened too. I wonder who is resonsible for that?

    And why youtube would allow it?

    Unless there is one of those real geeks involved? We should ask around and see if others have the same prob.

    have a good weekend…

    • I guarantee I will not be taking that stuff. The side effects sound a lot worse than just having the flu.

  4. Instead of Thomas Dolby:

    • what I can see is a vid with two girls– the title is on the screen at the top. — I see this in RDs post and here, MIQ. Here are the words at the top of the vid:

      J*zz In My Pants response: “Puke In My Mouth” -M…

      Is that what you meant?
      At Upp’s it was a little kid who needed a doctors app? It was like every vid was that on the front page.

      well, they did work to further guess who, no?
      looks pretty childish to me? like that party with the Hillary cutout?
      of course, wouldn’t their reputation be on the line?

      Or something?

      I thought they were a good company?

      • RD’s video is Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science” and mine is Oingo Boingo’s “Weird Science”

        I don’t why you’re seeing something different.

        • I came back! It’s weird!
          I’m going to take this machine to the mac place — this is a different one–the lap top.

          It’s weird because I always could see what you guys were putting until yesterday and then it all changed!


          I’m not a tekkie — when I worked for a paper we had a sys department who fixed stuff.

          dunno —

          damn — I’d rather see oingo boingo and dolby!
          thanks MIQ!

          maybe it’s time for a new mac-chine.

  5. WHO is a global organization and dealing with flu in developing countries presents its own challenges. Just delivering and stockpiling drugs is an issue. Ditto access to health care and health professionals. There was a lot of hype in the American nooz, but I don’t doubt that WHO officials were clutching the edge of the table when they heard about H1N1 possibly spreading to West Africa.

    Heh, I guess I’m geek level 1: I’m listening the John M. Barry interview right now. Thanks, RD — good link.

  6. RD,

    “This flu is different from the seasonal flu and appears to be a result of antigenic shift rather than antigenic drift.”


    Is this confirmed? The latest articles I’ve read said that initial reports that the virus contained mixed elements of swine, avian, and human flu were untrue, and that the virus is more like the typical flu outbreak.

    • The potential for pandemic is based on the fact that this *is* antigenic shift not drift. If it were drift, we would have some partial immunity and the vaccine makers wouldn’t have been put on notice to ramp up for a new vaccine. They would have continued their surveillance to find the influenza that required minor tweaks to the previous year’s cocktail.

      If you’re curious about the swine-avian-human connection, go to link three. In short: all flus are avian in nature. The virulent components cross over from bird to humans through the incubator of the swine. I think the confusion in the news is caused by the media not really understanding what they are reporting on. Also, the mildness of the initial wave has been noted before in the 1918 flu. In that pandemic, San Antonio was one of the first cities hit and 98% of the households in the city had an infected family member. But there were very few deaths. That’s because the flu had not yet found the genetic combination that would lead to the notorious lethality it ended up with. It wasn’t covered well in the media of the age. Then, when it showed up in the fall, it took everyone by surprise.
      I’m kind of shocked by the irresponsibility of the media in this episode. Now, everyone is relaxing and thinking it was nothing to worry about when we have every reason to be more vigilant and paying attention. They got a lot wrong, like calling it Swine Flu in the first place.

  7. RD, Does the fact that it’s spread to so many places around the world increase the chance of a dangerous mutation?

    • I’m not an influenza specialist but my best guess is yes, it would increase the chances for a dangerous mutation. The reason I think this is true are:

      1.) Pandemic flus mean that the population at large is susceptible to infection. In annual flus, the population has partial immunity because our bodies have *seen* a similar strain and already has an incomplete blueprint for producing antibodies. Therefore, fewer people get sick and spread is limited. But in pandemics, the strain is new and most bodies have never seen it before so they are more susceptible to infection.
      2.) When more bodies have the been infected, there are more instances of mistranslation of the viral protein. Link three explains how RNA viruses have a MUCH greater chance of mistranslations and consequently, more mutations.
      3.) With more people infected, lower resistance and more mutations, the chances of getting a lethat mutation is increased. Since bodies are still unprimed in the new pandemic, more people are likely to be infected.

      So, it is really important in the early stages of a pandemic to keep the reservoir of infection low.

      Ok, some infection specialist can correct me now.

  8. Great post, RD – very helpful

  9. A friend just told me that she heard on Fox news this AM that we need to be vigilent this Fall.

    • Boogers! It just figures that Fox would be the one channel that is tracking this thing with some diligence. Of course, they are also more likely to break out the “We’re all going to die!” meme.

  10. You are so right about the virulent flu potential for this fall, river! Summer is not big flu season, the thing quietly mutates along, under the radar, and then when it gets cold again, there’s an excellent chance it’ll come roaring back. And the media will be going, “What? Whaat?”

    The only good news is that the extra few months means they may well have a vaccine ready. In which case, as I said in my swine flu post here a week or so ago, GET VACCINATED. Don’t knock down people who need it more (health workers, kids, immune compromised, elderly, and people who work with the public, pretty much in that order), but do go and get vaccinated once there’s a vaccine.

    • Agreed. The media would be doing everyone a big favor if they encouraged people to get the vaccine when it is available, provided they are not killing each other to get it. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to find out about the availability of tamiflu and relenza. I mean, don’t loot the pharmacy. Just ask your doctor about how you would go about getting a prescription and under what circumstances. Plus, ask your employer if they have a pandemic flu plan and get your ducks in a row in case you’re stuck at home for a week or two. It’s all preparation, not panic.

      • The thing that bothers me is that suddenly we aren’t talking about the economic meltdown or torture or Pakistan or Afghanistan.

        • By “we,” I mean the media and the country, not The Confluence.

        • But if you look at the frontpage of the NYtimes, flu has moved off to be replaced my Souter’s replacement. The news cycle on this flu makes no sense. They really are playing a cynical game here. But that doesn’t mean that these other issues aren’t important. There is still plenty left to write about. There is a new New Yorker piece on Peter Orzag that we should read. And then there is the problem of Souter’s replacement. Obama doesn’t have a governing philosophy so there is nothing to go on there. We have to assume that he’s going to hire whoever his supporters tell him to.

  11. Thank you RD for posting the link to J.M.Barry-I’ve just finished listening to it -cleaning the kitchen at the same time.

    Those early scientific researchers were so dedicated.

    I’m so worried. My son is going to California in July for a summer school exchange sort of program (all expenses paid).
    Will there be a vaccine by then?

    • Probably not but I don’t know for sure. I don’t know how long it will take for a vaccine to be ready for wide distribution. But summer is a slow flu season anyway. When it’s available, get it.

      • thx. I’ve started a bookmark folder for your links -that’s how big a fan I am!!!!!

        (for BBs and Dak’s, too!!!)

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