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What if the swine flu turns out to be the worst pandemic in human history?

  1. Jun 29, 2009 #1
    Based on what I have read about the swine flu, it could easily mutate into something extremely deadly, or into something less harmful. The Spanish flu of 1918 killed about 100,000,000 people globally. It had the same name (H1N1) as the recent swine flu (H1N1). I am terrified that within the next few years, it could leave more than 1,000,000,000 people dead. The cases worldwide appear to be doubling with each passing day. Is it possible for the entire human population to be infected with this disease? What percentage of them will die? How long does a pandemic virus usually live until it eventually starts to "die down?"
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 29, 2009 #2
    Theres bound to be at least one human on some far away island or isolated underground who wouldn't be infected.
     
  4. Jun 29, 2009 #3

    Borek

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    100%. Good bye.

    There was a similar thread about swine flu and your questions are answered there.
     
  5. Jun 29, 2009 #4

    jim mcnamara

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    To be fair 'what if' questions like this are speculation at best. In order for a disease to wipe out all humans it would need:

    1. 100% fatality rate in all those who contract it. Anything less means the survivors are at least partially immune and will pass the trait on to children. 100% fatal is beyond rare, it only happens in man-made moncultures - vast numbers of genetically identical individuals. Human genetic diversity is at or near an all time high, not an all time low.

    2. Assuming number 1 is true, then the period of time when the victim is contagious has to be long, like maybe more than 10 days to allow people to walk into really remote areas. Then die. Most severely fatal diseases like haemorragic fevers, pneumonic black plague, and so on, kill their victims in very short order, often less than 72 hours.

    An alternative to this is the situation where the virus becomes windborne and can criculate everywhere on Earth. Windborne virus particles are killed by ambient UV in short order. So for our virus to win completely would require something totally new - a virus with a protein coat that protects it from UV.

    3. people everywhere would have to be unaware there is a horrible pandemic looming, so sick strangers would be welcomed into remote villages.

    Given that #1 and #2a or #2b happens, what would you do if you lived in Timbuktu, heard horrible pandemic on the radio? Are you going to welcome in people dying of horrible disease? Maybe # 3 is not likely either.

    Were you around during the Y2K scare? Same kind of assume-everything-fails logic was going back then. I guess it is fun to contemplate disaster.

    You should google 'population bottleneck' and read. Nobody know for sure, but serious consideration has been given to proposing that all humans arose from long period of horrible conditions in sub-saharan Africa. The ideas is: 2000 humans were all there were for perhaps 100+ years. Humans were nearly extinct. We are descended from them.

    Another proposed bottleneck is the Toba Catastrophe Theory. Since you seem to like catastrophe try a google for that. It is the proposed near human extinction event from a supervolcano eruption ~70000 ya - just like Yellowstone had 600K ya - Stanley Ambrose proposed it back in 1998.

    Humans have gotten through some really awful things and bounced back into the billions.
    I vote for survival. If you are into post-Apocalyptic history - read Barbara Tuchman's ' A Distant Mirror' about the depopulation of Europe in the 1300's And the effects on all phases of human culture.
     
  6. Jun 29, 2009 #5
    Is there anything both me and my family can do to protect ourselves against this hypothetical apocalypse virus? Should we take as many supplies as possible, get as far away from the city as possible, to some remote location far from any people, and try to hold our own there until the virus has ran it's course and most of the world's population is dead? It could take years, but I have taken into consideration either going into the military, and/or learn to be a survivalist.
     
  7. Jun 29, 2009 #6

    CRGreathouse

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    Of course as the A/H1N1 virus of interest has essentially none of the required traits, it would be more prudent* to worry about other diseases.

    * Do not read as "prudent".
     
  8. Jun 29, 2009 #7

    mgb_phys

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    If you do, try not to pick a large snow bound hotel - or at least keep your kids out of room 237
     
  9. Jun 29, 2009 #8

    russ_watters

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    Honestly, you'd be better off seeing a psychologist to help prevent this fear from ruining your life than you would be taking such rediculous measures to avoid somthing that doesn't exist.
     
  10. Jun 29, 2009 #9
    Is this a joke? Swine flu is literally no different in terms of mortality or damage than the typical seasonal flu that is around yearly. It's already subsided for the most part anyway.

    If you really are worried just wash your hands super-often and don't go to super-crowded places.
     
  11. Jun 30, 2009 #10

    Moonbear

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    Since a bunch of people have already contracted it and survived, they likely have already developed immunity to it now through exposure, as perhaps have those around them who were exposed but did not get sick with it. So, already, we've reduced the likelihood that everyone would contract it at once and die from it. :rolleyes: It's probably best to stop getting health information from the popular news media.

    Currently, WORLDWIDE, there have been only 70,893 confirmed cases since this strain was identified. Of those, only 311 have died.
    http://sharing.govdelivery.com/bulletins/GD/USHHS-7D0C0 [Broken]

    Compare that to the seasonal flu that shows up every year:
    http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/04/28/regular.flu/index.html

    So, this current strain of swine flu has not even infected as many people as die from other strains of flu during the normal flu season.

    The ONLY thing really significant about this flu is that it is occurring outside the normal flu season, so you can't just totally let your guard down about flu prevention over the summer. But, you probably shouldn't do that anyway, since other illnesses can still be spread year around.

    The best way to prevent ANY disease spread is through simple practice of good hygiene. Wash your hands before you eat and after using the restroom. If you're sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue and dispose of the tissue right away (don't carry around used tissues!) and then wash your hands again. Avoid rubbing your eyes or putting your hands/fingers in your mouth (break the nailbiting habit) and don't pick your nose, since this is the easiest way to introduce bacteria and virii into your body. Don't share cups and utensils with other people. You know, all the basic things they start teaching you in kindergarten.

    I would actually caution against OVER washing your hands, though. If you do wash your hands often, use a mild soap. Washing your hands to the point they become dry and chapped only leaves your skin open for other infections, so balance hygiene needs with plain old common sense.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  12. Jun 30, 2009 #11

    Borek

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    Moonie, I have a question that patters on my head for the last few days :smile:

    Let's assume someone contracts the flu now, and survives.

    Let's assume swine flu virus mutates.

    What are chances that the person is still immune, at least partially?

    Does the current outbreak mean that when the mutated flu hits again later, some will be already immune?
     
  13. Jun 30, 2009 #12

    jim mcnamara

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    Borek -
    There is such a thing as partial immunity. Older people who contracted related influenza strains during some of the long ago flu seasons have shown some partial immunity to swine flu.

    Partial immunity == reduced symptoms, less duration of symptoms.
     
  14. Jun 30, 2009 #13

    CRGreathouse

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    I don't know about no different. It seems to be less deadly and less transmissible, but more hardy.

    Of course there is no need to assume the flu mutates -- it's doing that continually.

    But yes, people who contract it now are very likely to have at least some immunity to the swine flu. It has been suggested that people who contract it now 'in the wild' will have better immunity (vs. those immunized) to later mutant strains because they will be more similar to those contracted now than those collected early on for the production of vaccines.

    So one possible strategy for the paranoid would be to contract the swine flu now rather than risk a (highly unlikely) doomsday version later.
     
  15. Jun 30, 2009 #14

    mheslep

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    Yes, or just read XKCD to save the psych fees. New signature candidate:
    http://xkcd.com/603/
     
  16. Jun 30, 2009 #15
    This is a very serious question that deserves a very serious answer. Don't ask me why I am asking this though.

    In the United States and elsewhere, are there any plans and preparations underway to physically force the country's entire population to get vaccinated for the swine flu? Will there be severe legal consequences if one refuses to take the vaccine? I heard that some of those vaccines can actually do more harm than good.
     
  17. Jun 30, 2009 #16

    CRGreathouse

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    Not in the US; no.

    What are "those vaccines"?

    Generally diseases are orders of magnitude more deadly than their vaccines. You may have a 1e-2 chance of contracting a disease with virulence 1e-2, and the vaccine may have virulence 1e-7. You're a thousand times more likely to die without the vaccine in this example. Of course weighing the cost of the vaccine against a 1e-4 chance of dying is an exercise left for the reader.
     
  18. Jun 30, 2009 #17

    russ_watters

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    I gave you a completely serious answer: the others used sarcasm in an attempt to show you just how silly the question is. Maybe you intend it to be serious, but that doesn't make it so.
    Please take a step back and consider just how absurd that statement is.
     
  19. Jul 1, 2009 #18

    baywax

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    http://wikicars.org/en/Car_accidents

    If there was a vaccine for this, someone would be flogging it through the WHO org or on CNN. But the only vaccine for car accidents is common sense, education and care. Not flashy and not making a lot of money. So we don't get the hype...... but, oh my... 372 deaths world wide from a virus of questionable origin.... red alert.:surprised
     
  20. Jul 1, 2009 #19

    Borek

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    Such things are now and then said by people who have never seen kids decimated by infections that are now eliminated by vaccination.

    This is sociologically and psychologically interesting, but sad and stupid at the same time.
     
  21. Jul 1, 2009 #20

    baywax

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    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
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