Posted by: Snake Oil Baron | July 10, 2009

Flu Bites.

A flu patient in Thailand developed meningitis. Just in case you didn’t read my earlier post, the theory I have been harping on lately is that the overreaction by the body to a new viral infection that takes it by surprise results is a large release of cytokines called interferons which have been shown to inhibit viruses but also instruct bacterial fighting cells to stay out of the way, leaving the lungs vulnerable to bacterial infections like pneumonia, meningitis and whooping cough. That is not to say the flu virus itself doesn’t kill anyone but it would explain why second waves of pandemics are more severe than first waves. The larger pool of compromised victims lets more bacterial epidemics sweep through the sick. If it really is the case that a lot of people who die from flu pandemics die because of secondary bacterial infections then I would suspect that larger concentrations of flu victims would provide more fertile ground for pathogenic and opportunistic bacteria to sweep through a population. While the bacteria that causes meningococcal meningitis is widespread as normal flora (even the vaccine only keeps you from getting the meningitis, not from harboring the organism in your nose and throat now and then) it does seem to spread in epidemics of pathogenic cases. Perhaps the bacteria needs to alter its metabolism to be pathogenic and once induced to do so will start causing illnesses whereas it would normally just hang out. So if there are lots of compromised flu patients around and a meningococcus gets angry it starts making trouble along  with other bacterial opportunists like Streptococcus pneumoniae.

New Zealand is experiencing its worst flu season in 12 years. Flu rates are double what they were this time last year and I would assume last year there were three or four strains doing it while H1N1 seems to have largely pushed competing flues to the margins as pandemic strains tend to do.

Australia is seeing record absenteeism. Oh, and they have a flu spike and a whooping cough epidemic going on right on top of one another in Queensland. Whooping cough is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis in the lungs. It is highly contagious on it’s own but a little extra help from  numerous instances of “mild” swine flu in an area might just have given it a boost, I suspect.



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  2. We may have a busy flu season this year. Perhaps there will be time to prepare a working vaccine against H1N1 in enough quantity to slow down the Northern Hemisphere pandemic.

    Almost everyone is immunised against B. Pertussis, but it is true that for some the immunity tends to wear thin over time. The DPT (diptheria, pertussis, tetanus) vaccine is given to every child before being accepted in school.

  3. Yeah, I am not that worried about whooping cough here – though it is endemic in Canada the vaccines keep it largely controled. But with N. meningitisis and other potentially oportunistic organisms so common as normal flora, I hope that a fair number of people take advantage of the vaccine when it is available. I was just talking to a family member today about someone my age from a mainstream religion who is home schooling his kids mainly to avoid vaccinating them.

    Between the number of people who are certain that this is just a type of cold to the folks who are certain that it will be lethal or is a plot to make them sterile we could end up with a lot of headaches this winter even for those of us without the flu.

  4. But then, at least we are not Russia where TB, chronic alcoholism and a economy undergoing a China Syndrome will complicate everything. Or Africa for that matter. With this virus seeming to be well able to thrive at higher temperatures (like those found in the lungs, GI tract, etc.) I suspect that as it gets going there it is going to be nasty. Even with donated vaccines, which will probably not be as heat tolerant as the flu, there won’t be very good coverage.

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