Archive for demic selection

The Great Recession Flu

Posted in Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , on January 2, 2011 by Rob Wallace

Swine flu is so 2009. Like La Roux and v-neck t-shirts.

And yet here we are nearly two years later and the United Kingdom is suffering a swine flu attack worse than anything it previously faced. The number of flu patients in intensive care has risen by 60% in the past week to 738, four times greater than at the pandemic’s peak in 2009. Some hospitals are on ‘black alert,’ canceling non-urgent operations and running short on intensive care beds.

Children are taking the worse of the blows. The incidence for the under-four age group is approaching 200 per 100,000, the epidemic threshold, even before the post-holiday return to school, where flus best incubate.

Since its emergence the novel H1N1 strain which swept the planet mid-2009 has quietly remained the world’s dominant influenza strain, sharing the stage with seasonal H3N2 and influenza B. As we’ve discussed several times here, the sustained global presence would likely permit the virus the opportunity to evolve independently across multiple populations under different social and public health regimens.

Continue reading


Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2009 by Rob Wallace

Cases of swine flu H1N1 are now reported in Honduras, Costa Rica, Brazil, Argentina, Austria, Thailand, Israel, etc. Can’t keep up at this point.

H1N1 is making its way across the world by hierarchical diffusion. By the world’s transportation network it is bouncing down a hierarchy of cities defined by their size and economic power and their interconnectedness to Mexico City, the international city closest to the initial outbreak. It’s no coincidence that New York and San Diego were among the first cities hit. The virus is also engaged in contagious diffusion, spreading out within each new country hit.

For the most part only a few cases have been reported in countries other than Mexico. But as influenza, unlike SARS, can transmit before symptoms show, there may be no way to stop H1N1 now. New York now reports hundreds infected.

What is clear is that the more countries affected, the more likely the virus will find chinks in the world’s epidemiological armor. The new strain may develop the right epidemiological momentum once it reaches those countries whose public health infrastructures are underdeveloped or undermined by structural adjustment programs. On the other hand, that may have happened from the start. Since the early 1980s Mexico has been subjected to IMF-specified truncations in animal and health infrastructure.

Continue reading