Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Swine flu H1N1 global update: Korea up to 41 cases

According to the June 1 WHO release, we are up to 17,410 confirmed H1N1 cases, with a total of 115 deaths (0.66% fatality rate). In the US, confirmed cases stand at 8975 with 15 deaths (0.17% fatality rate).

According to Xinhua, South Korea is now up to 41. The two new cases are a 32-year-old Korean-American woman who is three months pregnant and a 53-year-old woman (ethnicity not given), both of them recent arrivals from the United States. If the age of 53 is "Korean age," it's possible the older woman was born after the 1957 flu pandemic that is believed to have given many older people greater immunity against the current swine flu strain.

According to the Joongang Daily, the pregnant woman did not want to take Tamiflu for fear it might harm her baby, but she eventually acquiesced to doctors' recommendations. That itself must be a harrowing decision to have to make: it's a Hobson's choice between the potential damage the flu might do to the baby (premature delivery or miscarriage) or the potential damage Tamiflu might cause to a growing fetus.

What's a bit disturbing about the global results is that this is an increase of 1900 new cases and 16 deaths since the prior report, which was May 29, three days earlier. The May 29 report itself included 2112 new cases but only 4 deaths since the prior report on May 27, two days earlier. So there may be a slight deceleration in new cases (i.e., an increase in cases, but not as fast an increase as before), though this is not enough to indicate a real trend yet.

The US cases are an increase of a whopping 1048 since the May 29 report, with four new deaths. The US has over half of all cases, but Mexico has far and away the lion's share of deaths (97). Only two other countries, Costa Rica and Canada, are known to have H1N1 deaths (1 and 2, respectively, out of 37 and 1336 confirmed cases).

All the updates since April 24 can be found here. A new one comes out every one, two, or three days. Here's an interactive map that shows cases in affected countries over time.

You may note that for Taiwan, where twelve cases have been reported, it says the following:
Chinese Taipei has reported 12 confirmed cases of influenza A (H1N1) with 0 deaths. Cases from Chinese Taipei are included in the cumulative totals provided in the table above.
Hmm... you might wonder... why isn't Taiwan listed as a separate country? Well, it's not just that Taiwan is not an official member of the UN, despite Taipei's general desire to be recognized as such. What it comes down to is Beijing's strong-arm tactics to prevent Taiwan from getting recognition on the international stage.

So while the WHO is tasked with trying to control a global pandemic that has the potential to keep spreading and end up killing more people and possibly even picking up pathogenic steam, the WHO has to be bogged down with the hypersensitive rulers in Beijing who — no matter what and no matter where — see any attempt to acknowledge Taiwan in an official forum as a slight against them.

In other words, Beijing's political correctness trumps public health. Everyone must cater to the sensibilities of the PRC, whose leaders' heads might explode if people treat Taiwan as a country. I'd be less ticked off about this if Taiwan were (as yet) unaffected by H1N1, but they are not. The same things that make Korea and Japan vulnerable also make Taiwan vulnerable: citizens and foreign nationals coming in from affected areas. Public health officials need to be able to do their jobs unimpeded by such silly political correctness lest someone's wittle feewings get hurt.

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