Paediatric Respiratory Reviews, 10 (2009), 154–158
Dominic A. Fitzgerald
The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Department of Respiratory Medicine, Locked Bag 4001, Westmead, Sydney, NSW 2145, Australia
The influenza pandemic the world was waiting for may have arrived, but the early indications are that the first wave of human swine influenza A [H1N1], also referred to as H1N1 Mexico 09 or “swine flu”, is highly transmissible but of no greater virulence than seasonal influenza to date. The new swine flu H1N1 virus is a mixture of avian, porcine and human influenza RNA. With twenty thousand confirmed cases worldwide and 117 deaths within 7 weeks of the first acknowledgement of a possible pandemic by Mexican and WHO experts, the mortality rate is less than 0.1% and the majority of deaths centred upon the origin of the epidemic in Mexico [83%]. Swine flu is thus far a relatively mild illness seen predominantly in those who are healthy and under 25 years of age, perhaps reflecting protection from previous human influenza exposure in older people. As the virus spreads internationally, border protection issues have surfaced and public health initiatives are being progressively rolled out to minimise the transmission. Vaccines are being developed which will be trialled in the coming months with a likely availability by August 2009, in time for the northern hemisphere autumn and winter. Vigilance without alarm appears to be the recommendation so far.