Scientists such as US epidemiologist Larry Brilliant warn that we are entering the age of the pandemic where infectious disease outbreaks such as swine flu are becoming more common due to increased human-animal contact in such settings as the extreme filth of farmed animal conditions, as well as animal hunting and habitat destruction.
In fact, a full 75% of all emerging infections are said to be zoonotic, or transmitted from animals to humans.
Human handling of farmed chickens and pigs in Asian countries has led to zoonotic transmission of illnesses such as SARS and avian flu.
Meanwhile, a rise in “bush meat” consumption in Africa, where nearly 700 million wild animals were slaughtered in 2008, has also increased the risk of zoonotic transfer of new blood-borne diseases, as occurred with HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Brilliant and others have thus predicted that swine flu would be neither the worst nor the last pandemic the world faces. The severity of the current swine flu contagion is becoming clearer.
French epidemiologist Dr. Antoine Flahault found that people who die from the swine flu, compared to seasonal flu, are 100 times more likely to have died from the virus itself rather than from secondary causes.
In addition, the US Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology just released a report stating that swine flu is “a serious threat” that could hospitalize as many as 1.8 million people and cause 90,000 people to perish in the US this year, twice the number in a typical flu season.
A young married couple have become the first two confirmed cases of swine flu in Kyrgyzstan. In South Africa, the death toll reached 18, and total cases reached 5,000.
Other countries with recently announced fatalities include Formosa (Taiwan), Indonesia, Spain, the French territory of New Caledonia, and New Zealand. Worldwide, the swine flu has cost 2,594 lives since April 2009, out of 254,947 officially reported cases in about 180 countries.
However, these numbers vastly underestimate the true totals as so many cases go unconfirmed.Our appreciation, Dr. Brilliant, Dr. Flahault and all other scientists who are helping us understand the seriousness and implications of the swine flu.
We reach out in shared sorrow for those who have suffered the loss of a loved one and pray for the end of this painful trend. May we soon see the halt of future pandemics through renewed respect for all lives, which will in turn safeguard ours as well.
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