The WHO raised the "phase" of the pandemic alert to "Phase 5" (Pandemic). This struck me as odd, given that the stock market has already declared this rapidly spreading pandemic a "non-event." The "flu trades" have already reversed, and traders have moved elsewhere.
The authorities are trying to rename this flu "H1N1" instead of "swine flu," due to protestations from the pork industry. "H1N1" refers to specific subtypes of viral proteins the virus expresses and uses in its replication and infectious cycle. l am partial to my name for this virus: the "Mexican Flu of 2009."
Somewhat ominously, the most deadly pandemic in recorded human history, the Spanish Flu of 1918, was also a virus type H1N1. Not very comforting. The run on the anti-virals Tamiflu (GILD and OTCQX:RHHBY) and Relenza (NYSE:GSK) has already started.
The earnings from the sale of these anti-virals tend to be lumpy for the drug companies, and some stockpiles are already in place. However, from what I can gather, stockpiles are on the order of 100-200 million doses world wide, maybe 50 million in the US. That would leave about 6 billion people world wide without medication.
I'm watching Dr. Nancy Snyderman on NBC nightly news demonstrate how to wash your hands to minimize flu transmission. After noting how quickly the Mexican Flu is speading, similar to other common flus, you're better off getting a respirator. The virus appears to spread readily through airborne droplets from infected individuals, often, before they know they're infected.
Glenn Beck was talking about shortages of Purell (NYSE:JNJ) hand sanitizer in New York City. Anyone know a good company that makes surgical masks? They're all the rage in Mexico.
Disclosure: Long GSK and GILD.