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H1N1 (Swine Flu): Ten Exposed Presidents, Mysterious Killer Flu in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Anderson Cooper is into the Flu! (Is that a good thing?)

September 2, 2009

Over the weekend I was in Singapore, I switched on CNN and happen to catch  the President of Argentina, greeting all of the other South American Presidents at a Summit hosted in Argentina (the H1N1 center of South America) and in the usual wonderful fashion as is that part of the world, they were all hugging and kissing each other…I was thinking to myself…I know it is the custom but is that really smart with so much H1N1 still on the continent, especially that country and aren’t those important people!?!?!

As I was changing planes in Hong Kong today on my way home to San Francisco, I downloaded my email and as I read the ProMed Digest #409 on the plane…I actually laughed out loud…

Unasur Extraordinary Summit in Bariloche, Argentina, on Aug. 28, 2009

Unasur Extraordinary Summit in Bariloche, Argentina, on Aug. 28, 2009


President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia has been diagnosed with swine flu, prompting urgent checks into the health of other South American leaders he met at a summit last week. The Colombian leader has been kept partly secluded in an office at the presidential palace in Bogota and has continued working by telephone and internet. Officials said Uribe was expected to make a full recovery. “This isn’t something that has us scared,” Diego Palacio, the social protection minister, told a  news conference yesterday [30 Aug 2009].

Álvaro Uribe sneezes  - please work on your cough etiquette and set an example

Álvaro Uribe sneezes - please work on your cough etiquette and set an example for the rest of us...thank you.

The 57-year-old conservative leader showed symptoms soon after addressing a summit at the Argentine ski resort of Bariloche on Friday [28 Aug 2009]. The presidents of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela all attended the regional meeting. Uribe returned to Colombia. During a public event on Saturday [29 Aug 2009], he was sneezing and had a fever and aching muscles. On Sunday, doctors confirmed the cause was a H1N1 infection. Checks were being carried out on the 55 people who flew with him to the summit, including cabinet ministers, and Colombian authorities were using diplomatic channels to urge other South American governments “to adopt the necessary measures,” said Uribe’s spokesman, Cesar Mauricio Velasquez.

To date, neither the president’s travelling companions nor the other heads of state with whom he came into contact have reported symptoms. Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez said yesterday [30 Aug 2009] his own health was fine and wished his counterpart a speedy recovery. “I regret this and hope there are no repercussions for the president’s health and that nobody else has caught the disease,” he said.

The Union of South American Nations summit was called because Chavez and other regional leaders had expressed alarm over Bogota’s plan to expand US access to Colombia’s military bases in a pact that has evoked bitter memories of US meddling in the region.It was not immediately clear whether President Uribe was infected with the virus in Colombia, which has 621 confirmed cases, or picked it up in Argentina, which is in the depths of the southern hemisphere winter and has tens of thousands of suspected cases.

As the northern hemisphere braces itself for a surge in winter flu cases, the good news from the southern hemisphere is that its winter outbreak was less fatal than feared. The virus has not mutated into a harsher strain, allowing most people to recover without treatment.

ProMED Digest V2009 #409


I read about this event in several Asian papers over the past day.  It could be tied to H1N1 and follows the devastation that is seems to be having in indigenous populations around the world.  Laboratory analysis will be the final judge.

Papua New Guinea (PNG)

Papua New Guinea (PNG)

Twin outbreaks of a mystery flu and dysentery in a remote region of Papua New Guinea (PNG) have killed 47 people and infected another 2000 villagers, a senior medical official said on Monday [31 Aug 2009].

27 villagers in the Menyamya district of Morobe province, on the northeast coast, have died from an as yet unidentified influenza since 3 Aug 2009, while a further 20 were felled by dysentery. “Roughly 2000 people are sick in about 12 villages, and we suspect influenza and dysentery are the cause,” Mr. Likei told AFP. “So far, there have been about 47 deaths; about 90 per cent of them in the village of Akwanda,” where 95 per cent of the reported flu and dysentery infections were reported.

It was not immediately known whether the flu-like illness was the pandemic  H1N1 influenza virus or a seasonal H1N1 flu strain. The World Health Organization has taken samples from stricken villages, and test results could be available within days, a WHO official said. “We cannot rule out swine flu pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza virus at the moment, but the outbreak is in a  remote area, [so it] would be a little surprising if it is caused by  the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus H1N1,” said the WHO representative in  PNG, Eigil Sorensen. “But the number of sick and fatalities are  certainly higher than normal, so we take both of these outbreaks seriously.

Papua New Guinea has reported around 10 cases of swine flu [pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus infection], but they were traced back and appeared to have been imported into the country, Mr. Sorensen said.

South China Morning Post

The Straits Times

PRO> ProMED Digest V2009 #409 – www.promedmailcom

This morning, Wednesday September 2 at 3:34am PDT (-7 GMT) I read this on line….not H1N1 but seasonal flu was cited as the cause of the deaths….

BREAKING NEWS —The Papua New Guinea Health minister, Sasa Zibe, says the common flu is to blame for many of the deaths in Morobe Province over the past several weeks.

The province has been hit by a series of illnesses, with several thousand people affected with influenza and dysentery in rural villages in the Menyamya district.

Official figures say the death toll there is at least eighty but local reports have put the figure at more than double that.

There have also been seven deaths from cholera in several coastal villages in the province.

Mr Zibe says tests done in Brisbane have ruled out the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, in Menyamya.

“We have now, I just got the test result back from Brisbane today and I can officially tell you that we have tested negative, it’s not swine flu. I was just briefed today by my officers it was not swine flu.”

Anderson Cooper 360 Focuses on H1N1 on College Campuses – Great Google Map Shows Campus Outbreaks

Last night (while I was flying for 12 hours across the Pacific Ocean) CNN’s Anderson 360 show featured H1N1 on Higher Education Campuses.  How was it?  Helpful?  Alarmist?  You tell me…I am glad the flu is getting attention – sometimes however I find that it is a lot of alarm and not much data…

The program apparently featured the IAEM-UCC / ED-OSDFS Higher Education H1N1 Google Tracking Map we have blogged above in the past. The current version of the map is viewable at

4 Comments leave one →
  1. George Boaz permalink
    September 3, 2009 04:19

    I found Regina’s perspective interesting and humorous, as usual. After listening to Regina Phelps speak and reading her articles, I consider her one of the most authoritative voices on pandemic planning.

  2. September 12, 2009 03:01

    Reading so many articles about it… To be afraid, or not?

    • September 12, 2009 08:24

      I would suggest that you not be afraid, but rather that you are cautious and smart. The illness is mild, however, can be very serious. So, practicing good hygiene – frequent hand washing, don’t touch your face and cover your coughs, good nutrition, rest…all those things that Mom said were good are true for staying healthy. If you are in the priority list of folks for the vaccine, seriously consider getting it. The clinical trials are very promising – if you can avoid an illness through vaccination, that is a smart thing too.

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