Fast Company: My Brush with Swine Flu–We Dodged It, But What About Next Time?

At the beginning of June, swine flu or H1N1 hit my daughters’ school in full force.  Thankfully, everyone survived the outbreak, but what about next time?  Experts predict that we haven’t seen the last of H1N1, or its more troublesome sibling H5N1, better known at bird flu.  In a recent Washington Post article, John M. Barry, a scholar at the Center for Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane and Xavier Universities and author of the book, “The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History,” wrote:

“There have been four pandemics that we know about in some detail: 1889-92, 1918-20,, 1957-60 and 1968-70.  All four followed similar patterns:  in initial sporadic activity with local instances of high attack rates—just as H1N1 has behaved so far—followed four to eight months later by waves of widespread illness with 20 to 40 percent of the population sickened.  Subsequent waves followed as well.  In all four pandemics, lethality changed from wave to wave—sometimes increasing, sometimes decreasing.  It’s impossible to what will happen this time.”

If this pattern holds, some time between October, 2009 and February, 2010 we could face an even stronger more widespread epidemic.  Over the past month, I’ve been awestruck, in a creepy, skin-crawling way, by how fast the virus moved through one population, and then began to infect other grades and schools in the district as siblings and friends exposed one another.  I watched the challenges public officials, parents and doctors encountered as they grappled to coordinate a response.  It makes me very afraid for the next go round.  Here are a couple of the observations that surprised me:

It happens so quickly it’s hard to get in front of the outbreak. The first official notification that something was amiss in the school arrived via an email from the Superintendent on Monday, June 1st:  (Click here for more)