Several Pacific island territories were particularly hard-hit [by the 1918 swine flu]. The pandemic reached them from New Zealand, which was too slow to implement measures to prevent ships carrying the flu from leaving its ports.Any other questions about the Cuba airport blockade?
From New Zealand [which had a 5% mortality rate] the flu reached Tonga (killing 8% of the population), Nauru (16%) and Fiji (5%, 9000 people).
Worst affected was Western Samoa, a territory then under New Zealand military administration. A crippling 90% of the population was infected; 30% of adult men, 22% of adult women and 10% of children were killed.
By contrast, the flu was kept away from American Samoa by a commander who imposed a blockade.
Next question: Was Castro right to accuse Mexico of being tardy to issue a flu warning for fear it might have led to the cancellation of President Obama's April visit?
Castro is factually incorrect if he thinks Calderon's government had identified the swine flu virus prior to Obama's visit. As to whether the government had exerted itself to alert all countries of the outbreak of a 'regular' influenza -- I don't know.
But I think Castro is asking for an era that's not quite here, if he wants nations to issue a strongly worded flu alert every time the flu strikes. Yet I also think the world changed forever during the past month because of the realization that the outbreak of a new virus was initially camouflaged by a routine influenza.
Probably Castro became so very angry with Calderon's government when he realized that, given the way the swine flu progressed, it could just as easily have alighted in Cuba from a country other than Mexico. As the Western Samoa example illustrates, an island becomes a death trap when a highly lethal infectious disease breaks out there.
I think that's why his government sent out teams of doctors to scour Cuba, looking for signs of swine flu, even though they had caught and quarantined the one case that was in the country before the government ordered suspension of flights to and from Mexico.
Below are links to the big news of the day on the swine flu front, which point to a gathering storm emanating from the poorer countries about how to divide up the swine flu vaccine when it's ready.
WHO estimates that if the vaccine manufacturers go full tilt, they can still only crank out about one-two billion doses this year. So it's coming down to a very ugly triage situation -- who gets thrown off the lifeboat. The Cuban government's decision to suspend Mexico air traffic is even more reasonable in tight of that grim question. Castro knows that his country would be among the last in line for the first batch of the swine flu vaccine. And that the same would happen if demand for Tamiflu and Relenza exploded around the world.
To give you some idea of how seriously the swine flu virus is being taken in the developing countries, China has given the green light for Taiwan to attend the upcoming WHO assembly meeting, which will be dominated by discussions of the swine flu pandemic.
WHO met yesterday to discuss the production of swine flu vaccine. Two reports, one from AP and the other from AFP, portray somewhat contradictory views of what happened at the meeting.
The AP report conveyed that the decision had already been taken to start production and that only the details had to be worked out.
The AFP report indicates that WHO ended up the meeting by sitting on the fence. Or else they're easing up on the pace of decisions in order to placate concerns that the manufacture of swine flu vaccine is very problematical at this time:
WHO puts off decision on swine flu vaccineIt could be that WHO is also trying to head off that gathering storm of fury, or at least delay its onset.
GENEVA (AFP) — The World Health Organisation said Thursday that scientists will need more time to decide whether to start mass production of vaccines against the swine flu virus.
Acting assistant director-general Keiji Fukuda told journalists there have been "no big decisions" from a meeting of experts on Thursday on an A(H1N1) vaccine.
He added that more meetings were needed to examine the technical process for manufacturers to ready themselves to go into mass production which will "require several weeks."
"It's not possible to say that there will be a decision by this date, really it's a painstaking and difficult process," said Fukuda.
Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO director for vaccine research, said last week that the manufacturers and experts meeting Thursday would decide whether to ask the UN agency to give the go ahead for large-scale manufacturing of a vaccine.
But Fukuda said production of vaccines against the new virus could disrupt production of seasonal flu vaccines and so needed careful thought.
The storm has been building for a long time; the general perception in the less-rich countries and the poorest ones is that the wealthier nations have always given them the short end of the stick when it comes to which nations have the most access to critical drugs. Whether or not the perception is overblown, it'll set off crises if the swine flu virus begins taking many lives.