H1N1 a month in

So we got our first case a month back, 27th May. How are we doing now?

SINGAPORE: The H1N1 virus continues its spread in Singapore. The Health Ministry confirmed 95 new cases on Thursday, raising the total infected to 315.

[CNA]

Getting almost 100 cases a day, not too good. That’s a third of what they got over 1 month.

Looking at what Plagues the Human Race

Transmission electron micrograph of influenza ...

Image via Wikipedia

2009 Influenza A virus (H1N1 Swine Flu)

  • 18,129 cases
  • 119 deaths
  • 0.65% fatality

2002/3 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

  • 8, 273 cases
  • 775 deaths
  • 9.3% fatality

2003 – 2009 Avian Influenza (H5N1 Bird Flu)

  • 431 cases
  • 262 deaths
  • 61% fatality

Above are 3 global epidemics that hit us in recent years. Looking at the numbers, the fatality rate of H1N1 seems rather laughable compared to SARS and Bird Flu and noted to be only slightly higher than seasonal flu. In addition to the fact that H1N1 can be treated with a regime of commercial anti-virals such as Tamiflu and Relenza, like many I start to wonder if we’re all paranoid or under misdirection by some cleverly weaved PR to take our attention away from the economic crisis or something.

influenza-2009-cases

So the pondering let to some Googling and Wikipedia work which cumulated to this entry. I think the most important factor we need to look at is the timeline, where SARS and Bird Flu took its toll over the course of a few years, there are already 18 thousand cases of Swine Flu in just 2 and half months if we take the first case to be on 18 March.

Further reading gives me greater concern. The elderly, the young and those with underlying medical conditions are particular susceptible; it also causes complications in pregnancy such as “spontaneous abortion and premature rupture of membranes“.

While the global death toll seems to have stabilised, the number of cases has recently spiked so we can’t be complacent. As said in a previous entry, I’m not trying to create panic but highlight the dense population of Singapore makes it a good candidate for any potential virus outbreak so we can’t let our guard down yet. Practice good hygiene, seek medical attention if you’re unwell, take preventive measures.

Scale-free Network & H1N1

The influenza viruses that caused Hong Kong Flu.

Even with the flu outbreak around the world, some people believe that Singapore was over-doing it with the precautions. With the first case of H1N1 announced recently, maybe there’s reason to, well.. not exactly panic but be more alert.

Facts:

  • Singapore has an area of 692.7 sq km. Ranking 187th.
  • It has an estimated population of between 4.6 to 4.8 million depending on your sources. Ranking in 114th.
  • This gives us a population density of approximately 6,800 per sq km. This place us at an incredible 2nd worldwide.

Basically, this means that our country exists with super critical population; consider every individual as a node and each relationship we have with another a connection, this relationship can be described as a scale-free network.

Unlike a remote town in Australia where the network could be small and contained with a few nodes interconnected with each other, here in sunny Singapore, you have potentially hundreds of connections because not only are you connected to your friends and family, you also have connections to the commuters you share public transport with, people you walk by, people at your work place / school.

Therefore, a infection in that remote town will eventually kill itself off and collapse in that contained community, one here could potentially propagate very rapid through our much denser and better connected network, potentially causing an epidemic.

Anyway, the first H1N1 case is quarantined at the Communicable Disease Centre along with suspects, stamping off their connection to the rest of the country; I’m sure they’re doing all they can to keep the rest of us safe. ;)

I’m not saying we should all go into hysteria mode now but to those who feel we do not need to care, maybe it’s time to be a little less ignorant.

Edit: There are 3 more confirmed cases.