The other morning we watched as a deer stalked "our" cranes--the ones that return to nest here each year. As you can see, this year's two colts both survived. Anyway, the deer followed these cranes around for a bit, walking up a dirt mound where one had settled, then following it down off the mound as it rejoined the group.
The deer just seemed to be curious about these large birds. Or maybe he/she just wanted to say hi.(Click on photo for a larger picture.)
The good news is that the recent outbreak of H1N1 (the politically correct term for swine flu) seems to be a 1957-like pandemic: a flu that killed between one and four million people worldwide (obviously, the estimates vary widely) but was far from the ravages of the 1918 flu, which killed--again, according to widely varying estimates--50 to 100 million of the world's people.
The WHO said in an information note on its website the influenza pandemic had "spread internationally with unprecedented speed."
"In past pandemics, influenza viruses have needed more than six months to spread as widely as the new H1N1 virus has spread in less than six weeks."
It is no longer practical to test all probable cases; WHO has changed its policy and is currently asking countries to report their first confirmed cases of H1N1 and to monitor unusual events, such as clusters of fatalities or patterns that might suggest a worsening of the disease.
Britain, the hardest hit country in Europe, recently saw 100,000 new cases of swine flu in just one week:
An estimated 100,000 new cases of swine flu have been recorded over the last week in England, the Department of Health said Thursday.
Of those some 840 are in hospital, including 63 in intensive care, it said, giving the latest update of the virus.
Last week it estimated that 55,000 new cases had been reported in the previous week, adding that 29 people had died. There was no immediate update on the death toll, which has since reached at least 30.
Reportedly, German authorities have been surprised by the sharp increase in H1N1 cases, which doubled in under a week.
Thailand has reported 44 deaths, the highest number of fatalities recorded in the Asia-Pacific region. The flu is slowly making its way into and through the Asian countries, and while most of them now report far lower numbers than in Europe and Latin America, the spread of the pandemic is inevitable and will not spare any region.
Central and South America continue to be hard hit by the novel influenza: Chile reported 68 deaths, Uruguay 20, Venezuela 2, Brazil 20, Peru 14, Costa Rica 12, and Argentina 168. That makes Argentina the country with the second most deaths due to swine flu, behind the U.S. with 263 confirmed deaths.
In Costa Rica, the pandemic forced the cancellation of an annual religious pilgrimage for fear of spreading the virus among participants.
Yes, public health concerns are compelling even organized religion to modify its adherents' behavior. Arab health ministers have decided to ban children, the elderly, and those with chronic medical problems from attending the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. That event attracts about 3 million people each year. While the decision might save the lives of some of the banned categories, I don't see how it will prevent the spread of infection among those who participate.
Other modifications in religious practice include the Church of England's suspension of chalice sharing at Communion. (Frankly, this always seemed pretty icky to me, anyway. Shudder.)
It will be interesting to see if a second wave of H1N1 cases hits the U.S. with the beginning of school and/or the return of the usual flu season. Let's hope the virus doesn't mutate, and that the symptoms and the numbers stay on the lower end of the spectrum.