Thursday, April 30, 2009

With this perspective, why is the Swine Flu getting so much press?

CNN reports that Regular flu has killed thousands since January:

(CNN) -- There had been no confirmed deaths in the United States related to swine flu as of Tuesday afternoon. But another virus had killed thousands of people since January and is expected to keep killing hundreds of people every week for the rest of the year.

That one? The regular flu.

An outbreak of swine flu that is suspected in more than 150 deaths in Mexico and has sickened dozens of people in the United States and elsewhere has grabbed the attention of a nervous public and of medical officials worried the strain will continue to mutate and spread.

The article puts this in perspective with:

But even if there are swine-flu deaths outside Mexico -- and medical experts say there very well may be -- the virus would have a long way to go to match the roughly 36,000 deaths that seasonal influenza causes in the United States each year.

I guess it is worth paying some attention to the Swine Flu, but it seems like it is a lot of noise of a small thing.

(Hat tip: Risks)

Technorati tags: Swine, Flu


silvermine said...

Basically, you can't tell if something is going ot be a pandemic for sure until it's too late to do anything about it. So this is a good time for the CDC to watch it and for people whose job it is to do something about it to be ready to, you know, do something about it. Like the time before a nasty-looking hurricane is about to hit. You can't actually *do* anything before the hurricane hits, except be ready. And you don't know if it's going to hit. But you can't decide to get ready after the fact when everything is known.

So, basically, the flu is nasty. People really don't understand how nasty it is, for the most part. I get a flu shot every year because I am around babies and immune compromised people (my kids and their friends, relatives with autoimmune disorders and diabetes).

Anyway, this particular flu is weird. It might be something, it might not. No need to panic.

I think the only reason it's even an issue is that flu season is very extra long this year, thanks to an extra long "winter". When everything warms up in spring, flu subsides. But it's still snowing some places that it isn't usually snowing in late April.

So, basically, yes this panic is stupid. And yes the CDC should be watching it on the off chance it turns into a pandemic. And yes, the media are insane.

Amy said...

I just wanted to pop over and say thanks for commenting on my blog!

MiaZagora said...

It's true - regular flu kills tens of thousands every year. The difference is just about everyone has been exposed to regular garden-variety flu. Sure it mutates every so often and they have to keep making a new flu vaccine, but people who aren't immuno-compromised in some way will usually recover.

Swine, however, are known to scientists as "pig mixers" because they can get three types of flu virus - avian, human, and swine. These viruses can get together and exchange genes causing "reassortment" of the surface proteins (H and N), producing new strains with new H and N numbers. ("Today's human flus are mainly H1N1 and H3N2.)

After a reassortment, the human immune system will have no antibodies to fight this new strain. For instance, it is thought that this caused a Hong Kong flu (H3N2) pandemic in 1968.

"Reassortment happens. The deadly 1957 Asian flu, for example, contained five human and three bird genes."

"Because the genes determine the surface proteins, these proteins (antigens) will be different, and the human immune system will not recognize the new hybrid. The blended virus may not be able to infect humans, but if it can, it could carry new virulence, courtesy of its non-human genes."

"At worst, antigenic shift can lead to a flu virus that can infect not just the respiratory tract, but also other parts of the body -- with serious consequences. That happens with many bird versions of the flu, says Hinshaw, and may explain the 1918 epidemic."

(All information and quotes are from

Tree of Life said...

This is a manmade virus designed to prepare people for many orwellian events to come. those who choose not to vaccinate already should have no problem seeing through this hysteria and NOT taking ANY shot.

Sebastian said...

I will leave aside the actions and reactions of the media. They have a product to sell, which is news reports. I'm not suggesting that they are completely inventing things, but much of what is shown is highly trivial. (A couple nights ago, CNN had a teaser before each break that we would get to hear what retired Army general Honore thought. The promised spot was an edited cut from an earlier interview and saying well it's the weekend and we won't know how many are sick until Monday when people call in sick for work. They didn't even say who General Honore was or why I should care about what he thought about the flu (for all I knew, I was getting a tank commander's opinion on the flu).

Having said that, there is grounds for concern about this flu. Both because it might not do what is predictable and because it might mutate again. Also, the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic had a small wave in the spring and a large wave in the winter. So medical folks are (I think) justifiably concerned with what happens in six months.

Now if you want to see a frenzy, wait for the first death or two that happens after someone has a flu vaccine shot (even though there might be no connection at all other than the statistical likelihood that if the sample is large enough, a couple people will die after any event).

The most rational responses I've read are the moms who are cooking a few freezer meals and cleaning their house a bit so if they get sick, things will not come to a dead stop.

Luke said...

Perspective is a hard thing to get, especially when we don't have a clear picture of what is really going on.