Swine flu—Sorry it’s not the apocalypse

There is a lot of apocalyptic talk out there on the Net about the current swine flu crisis. Most of it is junk. If you are reading about swine flu from the usual doomsday email/internet sources, conspiracy theorists, or emails that contain capital letters that read ‘GET YOUR FOOD STORAGE IT IS THE END OF THE WORLD’, or from anyone who regularly sends you the latest on the current state of the ‘Endtimes,’ or points to prophecies predicting the this pandemic is “The one”. Toss it.

The best place to go for information is the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC is on this. They are gathering information from every state and most countries in the world in real time (Even China, which was slow to respond to SARS, as agreed they will be vigorously tracking this if it appears in China and share their information with the CDC). They have isolates from the virus and have top scientists working on it. Epidemiologists are tracking the disease in great detail and are using real computer models to predict its progress using the best mathematical models available that have proven themselves in previous epidemics. Vaccines are being considered and under design. So go there for current information. They have practical suggestions on how you should respond to the disease if you are a doctor, a school administrator, or a mother of small children worried about sending a child to day care. Don’t relay on rumor or misinformation on this one. This is important. The way to beat this epidemic is through accurate information and an informed response. The CDC will give you both. It tracks where there are current infections and what you need to know for your area.

Next, Don’t Panic. One of the worse things the virus can do may not be the sickness itself but people getting jittery and scared and inducing them to respond in inappropriate ways. For example, the news is reporting people are not eating pork because the disease has the word ‘swine’ in it. As we currently understand it, this disease arose as viral mutation in a flu strain in Mexico, likely in a single pig, at a single farm. It jumped to humans and spreads as a respiratory infection. You can’t get it from other pigs, nor can you get it from pork. You should be cooking your pork thoroughly for other reasons anyway, but by responding inappropriately you create economic consequences that can be bad especially in these economic hard times. It’s fairly important that people act reasonably and appropriately so this epidemic does not cascade into furthering the economic disaster. Again, read the CDC information. Thy will steer you right.

Why I’m not worried.

Comparisons are being made to the Spanish flu in which 20-100 million people worldwide died in 1918. The comparisons are appearing because like that strain, this one seems to hit young people harder than the typical populations that are usually more susceptible like infants and the elderly. This seems unlikely to be repeated if just because today we are positioned with much better information, on both local and global scales. The virus is being tracked worldwide, when a cluster appears, schools are closed, people are warned, the sick are treated with antivirals and local people are being told how to respond.

And we know how to break up an epidemic. We understand the epidemiology of epidemics better now than ever. For example for a virus to spread as an epidemic or pandemic (world-wide epidemic) it has to reach a critical number of infections in the population, and those infections have to be spread at a certain contact rate to turn into an epidemic. So we are living at a time when we have superb on-the-ground tracking of the disease, we have strategies in place that target epidemics right where it hurts, and we have better antivirals. The fact is, it’s a bad time to be a pandemic disease. We are on to you, we know what to do, and we are doing it. The best thing you can do is stay updated with information provided by the CDC. Do the appropriate things (like don’t travel to Mexico right now and see a doctor if you have flu symptoms), don’t give into rumor and the apocalyptic fear mongers who are always looking for another reason to buy a gun or more ammo. For some reason we as a people seem vulnerable to such voices of doom. This is a great time to be alive. We can do better than they did in 1918.

This is a crisis, but it’s unlikely to be your crisis. Bottom line stay informed, act appropriately, and don’t panic.

Bookmark Swine flu—Sorry it’s not the apocalypse

Comments

  1. The British government says it has at least enough Tamiflu to treat half of the entire population of the UK, and is acquiring more. Seems like the avian flu worry put in place some pretty good procedures.

    Thanks for this note of common sense, Steve. I think it would be worth pointing out that people do indeed die from the flu from time to time. No need to see this flu as any different to other flus.

    Note to Steve Evans: it’s called Schweinegrippe auf Deutsch.

  2. I tend to agree wi the jist of this post. Most likely we will see a minor outbreak of flu similar to the Hong Kong flu of 1968. The main difference is that we are much better prepared to deal with it for all the reasons outlined above.

    On a personal note my wife’s 90 year old grandmothers father was killed by the spanish flu when she was in utero

    Bonus question. What famous LDS leaders brother was also lost in the Spanish Flu epidemic?

  3. I’ll believe you, Steve, when pigs flew.

  4. You’re going to lose your bloggernacle cred, Steve, if you remain calm and reasonable and skip the opportunity to blame somebody — anybody — for this. (Wasn’t this virus invented by Obama’s transition team as a method of controlling rebellion? Can’t it be used to hammer on Mexican immigrants? Didn’t the Brethren fail to address this explicitly enough in April? Something?? C’mon, man!)

    Really, thanks for the rational reminders.

  5. Steve Evans says:

    Schweinegrippe is much better. Thanks Ronan.

  6. “What famous LDS leaders brother was also lost in the Spanish Flu epidemic?”

    He’s probably not “famous” but he was the Bishop of the Samaria, Idaho ward. His name is William Williams Williams, Jr. and he was my grandfather’s bother. He dies in 1919. His widow, my sweet Aunt Pearl, remained single until she died in the late 70′s.

    Do I win the contest?;-)

  7. make that “brother”

  8. You’re right SteveP. The Swine Flu is not a problem worthy of our panic and hysteria. As for me and my house, we will be freaking out over the <a href=”The http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/04/obama-adminis-5.html“<H1N1 Virus. Apparently that is the true threat to the continued existence of civilization.

  9. I think perhaps one reason people get active forwarding hysterical emails is that the actual things we can do to help prevent a pandemic are pretty banal: wash our hands a lot, don’t touch our faces, and avoid sick people. These suggestions seem hugely disproportionate to what people imagine as the possible threat. And so I can understand people wanting to invent a more vigorous and participatory response…

  10. Anne (UK) says:

    What a breath of fresh air!

    People tend to forget in 1918 they didn’t have antibiotics to treat the pneumonia which was the usual cause of death. Now we do. They didn’t have the instant communication which we have. They didn’t have the knowledge we have.
    They didn’t have the media looking for a story and racking up the panic which we have.

    I work in general practice here, and 3 years ago the Health Board insisted each GP Surgery (I think you call them GP offices, in the US) had a pandemic emergency plan in place. On Sunday night we were emailed links by the health board to algorithms for how to treat suspect cases. As has already been mentioned, we have a lot of antivirals in reserve.

    Gun deaths account for 80 people a day in the US, and no-one bats an eyelid, so I’d be interested to know when a pandemic becomes a pandemic :-)

  11. I’m not really worried about the swine flu. 30,000 people die of the normal varieties of flu every year. However, I am skeptical Tamiflu or other drugs will be very effective–and I’m even more skeptical of swine flu vaccines. Flu vaccines are a crap shoot. I think the epidemic will just have to run its course.

  12. Swine flu sounds so much worse than bird flu, though.

    What seems scary about the news on swine flu for many people is the report that it hits healthy people harder than the traditionally vulnerable like infants and elderly people. This is apparently because in a healthy person’s body, the reaction to the flu — which is the body’s attempt to deal with the virus — fills the lungs beyond capacity.

  13. Anne,
    Remember though that if the pneumonia is viral antibiotics will not help.

  14. if the pneumonia is viral antibiotics will not help

    But guns might.

  15. Yeah, why don’t thy call it porcine flu?

  16. Next we’ll have gorilla flu — that will really scare people.

  17. For a little perspective, “The World Health Organization says at least 105 cases have been confirmed worldwide” according to a CNN article. (Mexico claims 159 deaths in its country.) Based on 2007 numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 115 people die each day from auto accidents, just in the United States. In 2005 coronary heart disease killed more than 1250 people per day.

    There are plenty of more likely ways to die in this world than swine flu.

  18. Don’t forget the thousands of people who will get the flu, never see a doc and never have it confirmed because they aren’t that sick.

  19. Maybe we should start giving traffic accident victims antivirals.

  20. John Mansfield says:

    “don’t travel to Mexico right now”

    That seems a bit extreme and broad. Is that what CDC is recommending?

  21. #20 Yes.

  22. mmiles: “Don’t forget the thousands of people who will get the flu, never see a doc and never have it confirmed because they aren’t that sick.

    Exactly.

  23. Does anyone think that those face masks will ever catch on in America like they have in the Far East and, apparently, now in Mexico? I never saw anyone wearing those while walking around in America my whole life until I saw some news report in my late teens about an Asian issue and saw people walking around with them in the report.

  24. john f.–the face masks are showing up all over in SoCal right now. I haven’t seen any personally, but they were all over the news around LA & Orange County yesterday evening.

  25. Great post. Use common sense, people.

    By the way, for masochists looking for a great book on the 1918 pandemic, check out The Great Influenza by John M. Barry.

    The book actually explains why the 1918 flu, like the 2009 one, killed more young, seemingly healthy people, than it did the very old and very young. It seems that these flus provoke an extreme immune reaction that basically wipes out all of the body’s natural immune defenses. That reaction is stronger in the young and healthy, who have more robust immune responses generally. It was not the flu that killed them, but a subsequent opportunistic infection that comes along after the body has nothing left to fight with. That is kind of like HIV/AIDS I suppose. The very old and very young do not have initially robust immune responses to the flu, therefore their systems are not as fatigued and overspent as those of the young.

  26. Steve,

    Comparisons are being made to the Spanish flu in which 20-100 million people worldwide died in 1918. The comparisons are appearing because like that strain, this one seems to hit young people harder than the typical populations that are usually more susceptible like infants and the elderly.

    Great post. And even if it were anywhere close to the same level as the Spanish Flu of 1918, we’re still talking about a minimal effect upon the entire population. There are well over 6,000,000,000 people on the planet. If 100,000,000 people died of this new swine flu, the overall population would still not really be affected. We’re not talking about anything close to the effect, of say the Black Death, which fundamentally altered life in Western Europe (where the Black Death killed off 40% to 60% of the population!).

    Seriously, this is not a big deal. Besides, the normal flu kills 36,000 Americans every year. It’s a normal thing.

  27. If you want to read a fascinating book about the history of the development vaccines and epidemics read “Vaccinated” by Paul Offit MD.

    One interesting thing they was mentioned in this book is that each variety of flu becomes a pandemic precisely every 68 years. The key to curbing the pandemic is to quickly make a vaccine.

    I just can’t get too excited about the swine flu. There are so many other things out there that are so much more deadly.

  28. AHLDuke,

    I was thinking about Barry’s book as well. One of the biggest problems with the spread of the 1918 influenza virus was that during war time, the federal government exercised considerable censorship on the news about the virus. It got called the Spanish Flu, even though it appears to have originated in the US, and the first major outbreak was in an Army barracks in Kansas. Spain was the only country at first that openly reported the pandemic, so it got tagged Spanish Flu, instead of Kansas Flu or something like that. Newspapers and municipal governments did not report accurate number of deaths, and federal officials made a big effort to suppress news about the pandemic. Sick soldiers bound to the war in Europe were still loaded in transports, where the disease spread rapidly in the confined quarters, and multiple waves of the illness washed over the globe several times. Closures of public meetings, theaters, and the like didn’t start to occur until the epidemic had already taken hold across the globe.

    I see us being much more open, which also opens us up to more of the “pandemic of panic” like the email storms that are showing up. It is a serious illness, but we are better positioned both from a medical technology, and accurate information, even though air travel makes it spread much faster.

    Influenza also mutates quite rapidly as it moves from host to host, generally becoming more benign as it progresses. The good news is that they think they have located patient “zero”, a young boy in Mexico, and he has completely recovered. This strain also varies from the swine flu of the past in that the virus apparently contains DNA from pigs, humans, and birds, so it becomes an interesting outbreak to study.

    Also, Israel apparently objects to using the name “Swine Flu”, so they call it the Mexican Flu, while now the CDC is calling it H1N1.

  29. Bonus question. What famous LDS leaders brother was also lost in the Spanish Flu epidemic?

    Gordon B. Hinckley. His brother Stanford died from the Spanish flu while at a military training camp in Bordeaux, France.

  30. Peter LLC says:

    Just let me get on record before something bad happens and I can’t post anymore to say that more guns and ammo always help.

  31. Gordon B. Hinckley. His brother Stanford died from the Spanish flu while at a military training camp in Bordeaux, France.

    The eulogy read by Chaplain B.H. Roberts at the grave of Stanford Hinckley, along with a letter about the death written to Pvt. Hinckley’s father by (LDS) Gen. Robert W. Young can be read at Chaplain B.H. Roberts Eulogizes the Dead at Keepa.

    [/blatant self-promotion]

  32. “20-100 million people worldwide died”

    Ah. Rounding :)

  33. It’s funny to see someone pointing to the CDC as the best place for info because I am reading a book right now called “And the Band Played On” about how the CDC completely fell on their faces by spending more time trying to convince people not to panic about a small outbreak of Kaposi’s Sarcoma, than figuring out how to contain it.

    Unfortunately, a good dose of panic might have curtailed some of the behaviors that ultimately led to the explosive spread of AIDS.

    (Note: I am not saying the post is wrong, by any means — it’s just a funny contrast to the world I am literarily engaged in right now.)

  34. I just want to add one more point about comparing pandemics. Even the 1918 Spanish Flu is mild in comparison to the Black Death.

    40% of 6,000,000,000 is 2,400,000,000. You would have to get a pandemic big enough to kill off 2.4 billion of the people on the planet to get to the level of the Black Death.

    And yet, life still went on.

  35. Nitsav,

    We’ll never know for sure, but many governments did not report accurate numbers at the time, and in more rural areas of the world, many deaths were never reported.

    As Daniel and others have pointed out, the 1918 flu was a poser compared to the bubonic plague and diseases like typhus in the middle ages, and the comparison to gun deaths, cancer deaths, and auto fatalities also renders some valuable perspective on the current outbreak.

  36. Even the champion of all potential pandemic diseases, a virtual slatewiper like Ebola, is not really that much of a threat, because if it always kills its hosts, then it dies out rapidly and is somewhat self limiting. All these viruses want to grow up and be like the rhinovirus and give you a cold for a couple of weeks, so that you still feel well enough to go to work and infect everybody else. Then you get better, and get a cold again next year.

  37. MikeInWeHo says:

    This is a great post. Thanks, SteveP. We’ve been getting daily updates via email at work (I work at a hospital). They seem to be all over this here in L.A. County. Fortunately, we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on hand-hygiene long before this flu emerged. Most people don’t realize how crucial proper hand washing is. If I can find a link for how to do it right, I’ll post it here later.

    re: 11
    Better study up on that more, mmiles. Flu vaccines aren’t exactly a “crap shoot,” especially if you get them annually. They’re cumulative, and extremely effective in reducing severity of symptoms when people do become ill. I’m told that people who’ve had years of vaccinations against various influenza A strains may do better if they do contract this flu.

    If they rush out a vaccine to this new H1N1 strain, I’ll be first in line. In terms of risk-vs-benefit, it’s a no-brainer.

  38. MikeInWeHo, to be fair, Guillen-Barré syndrome does suck.

  39. First, I think it is a million dollar idea to start selling those face masks with a picture of a pig and the big “no” sign over it (like the Ghostbusters sign but with a pig).

    Second, I think we should call this “pig flu,” not “swine flu.” To show that I am consistent I advocated for “bird flu” over “avian flu” as well, and not just for the possibility of “big bird flu” if that had broken out in a worse way.

    Third, it is worth noting that more than 30,000 people die every year from the regular flu. So, if you hear the number of people dying from pig flu rising to alarming numbers in the tens or hundreds, please use the number above as perspective.

    Forth, it is funny that Bill O’Reilly gave basically the same speech as in this post on his show. I’m guessing it is noteworthy when SteveP and O’Reilly are on the same page.

  40. Ryan #33 CDC may have problems as does any big organization, but its better than anything we’ve got and they really are following this one closely. I can’t think of a better source.

    On vaccines for the regular flu, they are very important, safe, and effective. To not get a vaccine when you can is the crap shoot. Also, it’s important because it lowers the transfer rate below the thresh hold cases that will let it take off. Think of it as doing your civic duty when you get a flu shot because you are helping your community and fellow citizens.

  41. #39 Bill O’Reilly and I agree? It may be the apocalypse.

  42. Yeah well, my son is in Mexico City so I’ll go ahead and panic.

  43. The company that I work for just restricted all travel in to, out of, and through Mexico. Unfortunately my boss is in Mexico to attend a wedding. He was scheduled to fly back through France to get his visa before coming back to work, now it is looking like France is going to restrict flights in and out of Mexico. This is with the confirmed death toll at ~20 persons. So I will continue to carry four cell phones and manage the endless line of personnel issues lined up outside my office for the foreseeable future.

    I am just guessing, but the overall impact 100,000,000 deaths, while not really “affecting the overall population,” would chill international markets and trace enough to put the already-troubled world economy into a final death spiral.

    It is already impacting an already socio-politically delicate Mexico that relies heavily on tourism.

  44. The company that I work for just restricted all travel in to, out of, and through Mexico. Unfortunately my boss is in Mexico to attend a wedding. He was scheduled to fly back through France to get his visa before coming back to work, now it is looking like France is going to restrict flights in and out of Mexico. This is with the confirmed death toll at ~20 persons. So I will continue to carry four cell phones, miss dinner every night and manage the endless line of personnel issues lined up outside my office for the foreseeable future.

    I am just guessing, but the overall impact 100,000,000 deaths, while not really “affecting the overall population,” would chill international markets, travel and trade enough to put the already-troubled world economy into a final death spiral.

    It is already impacting an already socio-politically delicate Mexico that relies heavily on tourism.

  45. #42 Don’t panic too much there are basic things he can do to be completely safe. Just send him the CDC recommendations for staying healthy (except, um, of course, not traveling to Mexico).

    #43 No way it’s going to 100,000,000 that’s my point, not even close. I don’t underestimate what’s happening economically to Mexico. That is very bad indeed. Much worse than the disease itself.

  46. typo, sorry

    “international markets and trace” mean to read international markets and trade

  47. CDC may have problems as does any big organization, but its better than anything we’ve got and they really are following this one closely.

    I don’t disagree, but let’s put swine flu and AIDS response side-by-side for a second. In the early 80′s, most associated bureaucracies (CDC, NIH, NCI, etc…) were so wrapped up in preventing a panic, they stymied measures that might have stemmed the tide of the AIDS epidemic.

    So why not inspire a little panic a la: “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is extremely serious, easily communicable and deadly. There is no cure. Everyone should be washing their hands and generously applying purell or you could die” or something.

  48. #45
    I’d love to send him those recommendations. But he is only allowed to read e-mail one day per week. So I’ll just panic until next Monday :-)

  49. C Jones, If he is a missionary I think the Church is on this in a big way so I would panic just a little, but not too much.

    “I don’t disagree, but let’s put swine flu and AIDS response side-by-side”

    I don’t think that is a valid comparison actually. With AIDS they were uncertain what was going on. This looked like an immune disfunction causing all kinds of symptoms, doubts and fears. Panic was not the appropriate response even then. In retrospect is it’s easy to say ‘this and this’ should have been done, but at the time it was unclear what it was caused by, prevented by, and what was responsible behavior. Hindsight is 20/20. But the flu is fairly well understood. How it’s transmitted, avoided, and how the epidemic proceeds is a well studied phenomenon. The panic will be much more harmful in the end than the disease. A reasoned, rational response is what is needed. The trouble with your suggestion is when you inspire a little panic it turns out it has other consequences than those produced by the disease. Like economic. No panic. That is the answer. Just Mr. Spock-like logic and informed appropriate responses are what we need now.

  50. when you inspire a little panic it turns out it has other consequences than those produced by the disease. Like economic.

    I can imagine, in 2030, the book about swine flu and the excerpt that says:

    “Early news coverage inspired widespread fears about the new strain of flu, prompting citizens to wear surgical masks, avoid international travel, and cut back on social activities. Officials, however, fearing economic repercussions during an already disastrous economic slide, downplayed early fears and allayed the public conscience. What they didn’t know, was that this new variation had wildly varying incubation periods (from 2 days, up to 1 year). The lethal virus was quietly spreading across the globe even as officials continued to nurture investment portfolios and consumer indices”

    Okay, okay, I went way over the top there (and my tongue is firmly in my cheek), but you are incorrect about “they” being uncertain about what was going on during the early years of AIDS. The most prominent Health officials and scientists and blood industry experts were quite certain of what was going on. They were just totally incorrect in their certainty.

  51. what? accurate information and logical response?

    `
    but panic let’s me get out of so many other things…sorry i can’t do the dishes today I’m paralyzed with worry about something that i could rationally prepare for but am too concerned to do

  52. And at least for North America, it’s summertime. Flu doesn’t do well in summer as a general rule. And the tamiflu tends to work on this strain. and panic makes things pretty messy.

  53. Christopher Robinson says:

    Nobody know if it’s the end of the world or not. Period. You can read this crap all you want but it’s just peoples opinions. NO ONE CAN TELL YOU THE OUTCOME. It’s known as a future event meaning it has not happened yet so all these people trying to fill your mind with BS can just stuff it. And why are’nt a higher number of people wearing masks? Taking precautions won’t kill you but being careless will. So what if you have to look like Darth Vader for a while? It’s better than being sick or worse yet dead. Alot of people are just blowing this thing off like it’s nothing when they should be somewhat worried. Here’s a question for you. If you were forced to walk through four foot tall grass would you walk like you were late for work or would you take every step with caution afraid a snake is going to jump out and bite you. Get it people it’s called Precautions.

  54. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: There seems to be a direct correlation between the lunacy of a comment and the use of ALL CAPS in a comment.

  55. Feeling a bit angsty there, #54?

  56. If you guys declare this panic over we’re going to have to back to world economic collapse…

  57. MikeInWeHo-
    I still vote crap shoot. You aren’t immune to the flu just because you’ve had it–and you still have to get a flu shot every year (even if you had on last year), and chances are, it’s not the right strain. So I’ll be in the number who continue to pass.

  58. “If you were forced to walk through four foot tall grass would you walk like you were late for work or would you take every step with caution afraid a snake is going to jump out and bite you.” Well, me, I would walk like I was going to work, knowing that if you are not making a lot of noise you are more likely to sneak up on the snake and scare it leaving the only option to bite you.

    Precautions? Of course, but sensible reasoned precautions based upon good information.

  59. Our bishop is a doctor, and the comments made by him and our ward/stake emergency preparedness expert on Sunday were:

    - Don’t do anything irrational, but yes, it’s for situations like quarantines that the Church asks us to have food storage.
    - You can buy face masks at Home Depot for $5 for 100. Don’t do anything irrational, but it doesn’t hurt to go buy a box.
    - Don’t do anything irrational, but it wouldn’t hurt to go buy some of those waterless handwashing liquids and learn to wash your hands more frequently.
    - Don’t do anything irrational, but if you’re practicing good hygiene and have your house in order like the Church has been preaching for 30 years, you’ll be fine…

  60. (But they seemed generally unworried. Just go and prepare, and then ye shall not fear…)

  61. #60 Queuno

    Wise bishop. Good advice.

  62. WHO just raised the pandemic alert level (see sidebar).

  63. Sure it’s not the apocalypse, because it’s the APORKALYPSE!!!

  64. Geoff J, have you NOTICED that the indiscriminate use of CAPS is VERY OFTEN TIED to the misuse of APOSTROPHES?

  65. It’s at 5, now, when it gets to 6 it will be an ‘official’ pandemic. My advice still holds.

  66. Ardis (65),
    That should be “to the misuse of APOSTROPHE’S?”

  67. Here is a very nice pandemic preparedness page that the church put out in preparation for the Avian flu. Very useful, rational and recommends the CDC as a source for information:

    http://providentliving.org/content/display/0,11666,8041-1-4414-1,00.html

    The Chruch is always ahead of me.

  68. it’s the APORKALYPSE!!!

    Hehehe. Awesome. (The ALL CAPS and exclamation points make it even awesomer)

  69. I for one tend to avoid ANY job that requires WALKING through four foot tall grass INFESTED with SNAKES!!!”””

    Seems like that ought to be a basic tenet of provident living.

  70. Cynthia, please. Everyone knows that THIS is the APORKALYPSE

  71. Aporkalypse = Mel Gibson directing his version of “Lord of the Flies”.

  72. S.P. Bailey says:

    I don’t mind if y’all get hysterical and stop eating pork. That just means more for me:

    Homer: Wait a minute wait a minute wait a minute. Lisa honey, are you saying you’re never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?

    Lisa: No.

    Homer: Ham?

    Lisa: No.

    Homer: Pork chops?

    Lisa: Dad! Those all come from the same animal!

    Homer: Yeah, right Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.

  73. it is worth noting that more than 30,000 people die every year from the regular flu.

    You can put lipstick on a regular flu but it’s still a… swine flu?.. I mean.. um… a hockey mom.. er…

  74. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 38 and 58

    Once in grad school I contracted the flu, the real thing. It was the most horrendous illness of my life. I really thought I was going to die. I’ve gotten the vaccine every year since then, and have never been sick with the flu since. Obviously that’s just my anecdotal experience with some good luck thrown in, but I stand by my position. Ask any internal medicine doctor or hospital nurse what they think abou the flu shot, and listen to what they say.

    There is less than one Guillain-Barre case per million flu shots, and most of those cases fully recover if they receive proper treatment. Given how dangerous the flu is to us and our loved ones, the vaccine is a no-brainer.

    This is really serious. To not get the flu vaccine because you’re afraid of side-effects is like not wearing your seat belt because you’re afraid of getting trapped inside a burning car. It’s just not logical.

  75. Schweinegrippe ist schlecht, aber Schweinfleisch schmeckt!

  76. Das stimmt!

  77. #75 Actually I don’t get the flu shot because, as I understand it, the flu virus that actually comes out each winter rarely corresponds to the shot they give out, since it takes so long to incubate and manufacture the shots. So it’s more that I’m a stingy bastard and don’t wanna pay the $20 co-pay for a weak virus that likely won’t even be the one that hits. Of course I freely admit I may be way off base and endangering my community.

  78. #75, That’s a great analogy.

  79. #78 that’s an urban myth. They are actually very good at guessing the right virus and hardly ever miss.

  80. I wonder if there’s an evangelical proclivity to panic–an emotion weirdly related to joy. The word “Rapture” is thrown around like a grab-it-and-keep-it toy. Is there something in the theology we all share (meaning we Christians) that makes us enjoy panic, anticipating that it might just mean the ultimate reward for our righteousness? Just wondering.

  81. SteveP,

    Good to know, I’ll try to be less cavalier about my flu shot next year.

  82. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 81
    That’s fascinating. Or maybe it’s the other-way around, and people who are prone to panic are drawn to faith communities that reinforce it?
    I for one am definitely hard-wired to panic.

    WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE !!!!

  83. I am not prone to panic. So MikeInWeHo–what’s your point?

  84. I think panicky people in general are just drama junkies.

    Deep down, they don’t really believe any of this sensational stuff — if they did, they’d be doing heavy duty repenting and seriously hunting up refuges in the wilderness. They enjoy the heightened physical and emotional responses that come with panicking, because they aren’t genuinely committed emotionally to anything worthwhile. The panic fades because they don’t really believe it, and they move on to the next crisis because they need that imitation feeling of being alive that panic gives them.

  85. re: 83
    Mostly I was joking (the last sentence, obviously), but I do think that people are drawn to certain churches and worships styles depending on their personality. That’s probably off-topic in this forum, though. Sorry for the tangent.

  86. I want to hear more about the flu shot and getting the right strain. My kids got flu shots last year, and they both got sick, and I was told that they got the wrong strain. We actually all got the flu last year, and strep for the kids on top of that, and it really was the sickest I have ever been.

    This year, I got my daugther a flu shot, but not my son (I’m cheap and lazy and never got around to it) and he got the flu again. Nobody else got it though, including me and my husband who had not had the flu shot. This year, though, we got my son on Tamiflu right away, as well as another anti-viral because they said that he could have another strain that was resistant to Tamiflu, but there was no way to tell which flu he had. So, he took double the anti-viral dose and was fine in 2 days. I had to keep him home for 5 days, though, because I was told that the flu can be contagious for up to that long, even when symptoms have abated. In fact, I was told that he was probably contagious BEFORE he even had symptoms, which means that there is a 7-10 day window of contagion there. No wonder this sucker gets around.

    Anyway, I was also told by a health professional that my family won’t need flu shots next year because they’ve built up an immunity to the flu, and it was just a fluke that my son got it two years in a row.

    I’m completely flummoxed.

  87. MikeInWeHo says:

    “I was also told by a health professional that my family won’t need flu shots next year because they’ve built up an immunity to the flu…”

    Who on earth told you that, your neighborhood Christian Science practitioner? That sounds like extremely dubious advice. Keep in mind that there are many other viruses people catch that cause flu-like symptoms. In my experience people tend to call any winter illness “the flu” even though in most cases it’s probably something else.

    Here’s the CDC’s overview of the flu vaccine:

    http://cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm

  88. #87: I’m guessing this “health professional” is of the “alternative” or “holistic” variety. Not a good source of accurate information about anything. Seriously, in light of the numbers of people hospitalized or killed every year by seasonal influenza, it amazes me the number of panicked people, some of whom refuse the regular flu vaccine each fall, who are inundating my office with requests for testing and antivirals for this strain.

  89. Thanks for the link #88, that’s right. You have to get it every year because it mutates from year to year.

    #87 It sounds like you were very unlucky or your health provider is a little dubious. It sounds like he or she is giving you some funny advice and may have misdiagnosed what your children had. Sometimes people call the flu lots of things like bad colds, or strep, or other common things. Then again it really could have been you got unlucky and your kids got a previous year’s flu which can hang around a bit. But if your health provider told you that your kids were immune from the flu they really are giving bad advice and you should shop around for a new one.

  90. Margaret, #81 That is an interesting question. I notice how quickly end-of-the-world emails circulate on the internet and through email. There does seem to be a sense of joy in panic sometimes. Maybe there is a secret hope that it’s finally over and we can get on with Millennium.

  91. Ditto what Heather said. My children’s pediatric group (huge Bay are practice) always say children do not need the flu shot unless they are both under 6, and in daycare (or have some other health issue.) The board certified doctors are the ones telling me the shot is a crap shoot–and very often it doesn’t cover the most popular strain going around. These are not “alternative” docs! (although, they wouldn’t go so far as to say you are immune to the flu once you’ve had it)

  92. #92 They may have different local information from the CDC. They also could be wrong. Just ask them why they recommend what they do if the CDC is recommending vaccination. If they say, the CDC has different recommendations in our area because of x (x= limited supply, different strain, differing priorities for vaccine) then fine. If they hedge and look uncomfortable and say “The CDC doesn’t know everything!” get a new doctor.

  93. um . . . Not that the CDC knows everything, but they are tracking these things, so should be a doctor’s first line of information. It’s the attitude of ignoring important information I’m trying to key in on if your doctor is acting appropriately.

  94. Downplaying a potential threat is what leads to succumbing to it. One of life’s lovely little ironies.

    And no pandemic starts off looking like a pandemic. But wasted foresight sure beats useless hindsight, doesn’t it?

    ;)

  95. Yes valid points on the optimistic side of a balanced perspective.

    I looked for a pessimistic comments all the way down other than the potential business impacts.

    While there is more active containment of clusters and tracking today than in 1968 and 1918, the fact is the massive levels of air travel relative to those periods mean the virus, in incubation, already has exposure to wide swaths of population. It is ‘not containable’ this was said by the CDC.

    While the number of deaths is relatively low and even the rate of death appears low, there is no certainty this will not change.

    Ease of transmission, initial low death rate, and late identification before spreading from a single community or city could be factors that add up to significant impact.

    It is not just mortality rates that you can estimate against the potential impact to the economy that is in it’s most fragile state in 70 years, the possible duration of the event needs to be considered.

    Since there is nothing you can do individually to mitigate this risk though, it is not worth worrying about so just keep washing your hands.

  96. Christopher Robinson says:

    In response to comment #56. I urinate hatred and bleed angst.

  97. #92 I’m pretty on top of what all the different pediatric offices in the area recommend, and I don’t know any that push for all children to get the flu vaccine–and my primary doesn’t either–so maybe we’re just all uber healthy here in San Francisco:)

  98. “Ask any internal medicine doctor or hospital nurse what they think abou the flu shot, and listen to what they say.

    There is less than one Guillain-Barre case per million flu shots, and most of those cases fully recover if they receive proper treatment. Given how dangerous the flu is to us and our loved ones, the vaccine is a no-brainer.”

    Get the flu shot. (I’m a hospital nurse. They make us get it every year to protect us from you).

    I just wanted to say, Guillain-Barre is the most fascinating disease I have ever seen. I’ve taken care of 3 patients who contracted it. They’re with us in the ICU, paralyzed, for several weeks, but eventually the disease reverses itself and after a few more weeks of rehab, they walk back in to say hey and are totally normal. Crazy awesome. Not for the patient, of course, but of all the horrible diseases to get, the disappearing kind definitely has its benefits.

  99. I understand why health care workers would/should get the shot–but all people? not so much. I’ll continue to listen to my docs.

  100. MikeInWeHo says:

    mmiles, you might consider getting the vaccine for yourself even if your kids don’t. And trust me, if you ever catch the flu for real you will never miss the annual vaccine again.

    The whole anti-vaccination movement mystifies and disturbs me. Put the autism debate aside. For healthy adults to refuse safe and effective vaccines against potentially deadly communicable disease is the height of irrational behavior, and irresponsible to boot. Seriously. People are endangering themselves and others, and it’s just not cool.

  101. MikeInWeHo-
    I’ve never gotten one, never had the flue, and I hate needles. However, your appeal to an economist-type argument (externalities) almost convinces me to get a flu shot.

  102. #81 – Margaret, evangelicals are not the same in the details of their eschatology. And of course, anxieties really began to surface for those whose eschatology is wrapped up in the stability of the United States of America.

    How much connected is the American Constitution to Christian Zion?

  103. Christopher Robinson says:
  104. re: 102
    You don’t need to get a shot, Scott.
    FluMist is just as good and costs maybe $10 at Rite-Aid and Walgreens:
    http://flumist.com/

  105. Mommie Dearest says:

    I skimmed the post and I read a few random replies. I don’t have time for blogging much less a pandemic. I wonder if anyone has pointed out that wearing a mask mainly protects others from your germs, but doesn’t give you a whole lot of protection against others’ germs. You aren’t going to give yourself an edge by wearing a mask, but it’s a thoughtful gesture for those around you.

    I apologize in advance if anyone has already hashed this one over, and if I am perpetrating an old wives’ tale (ya never know), I welcome correction from a bona fide health care professional.

  106. We are all ok in the UK. Remember a few years back we were all going to get mad cow disease? So hooray we won’t realise when we get swine flu. The same as we did’nt notice when we all got bird flu!! Interesting note. Why do we now associate new flu viruses with animals when it used to be associated with places of origin? Is this political correctness gone mad? Don’t worry be happy because the sun is still shining and the birds singing

  107. one death in the U.S., a hundred or so in Mexico.

    Compare with the four thousand deaths from Cholera in Zimbabwe the last month.

  108. aloysiusmiller says:

    30,000+ deaths estimated in the US last year from influenza or complications. Why is this Swine flu thing so big? Is it a stalking horse for a socialized medicine agenda? A right wing scare to sell guns and ammo or food storage? A PR trick to later tell everyone how well the crisis was managed? A last gasp for MSM relevance?

    http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/us_flu-related_deaths.htm

  109. Steve Evans says:

    aloysius, it’s big because it’s not a seasonal flu, there are no applicable vaccines, and no human has immunity against it. It transmits like common influenza but is far more difficult to manage. Agreed that there has been a lot of hype and paranoia — and there will continue to be. But it’s no PR trick or stalking horse; a lot of people are catching this very quickly, and are dying from it.

  110. Eric Cartwright says:

    Maybe after the H1N1 sweeps the planet and a lot of lives are lost this article will still be here to show the arrogance of mankind. History always repeats itself and we never learn a damn thing from it. I promise you if you were born in 1900 you’d be shitting a gold brick right now because you would know what it’s like to live through a global pandemic. Don’t feel left out though your turns coming soon enough.

  111. Eric,
    You are crazy. So you know.

  112. Eric Cartwright says:

    I hope I am John. I really hope I am.

  113. MikeInWeHo-
    I’ve had the real flu. It was terrible. If there was a proven reliable vaccine for swine flu-I may get it, but regular flu shots? No way. When I’m old and decrepit I’ll reconsider.

  114. Naismith says:

    “FluMist is just as good and costs maybe $10 at Rite-Aid and Walgreens”

    Not every state allows pharmacists to dispense FluMist.

    I think it is a great idea, and evaluations are proving it to be a good idea, but it isn’t that easy for everyone, sadly.

  115. Compare with the four thousand deaths from Cholera in Zimbabwe the last month.

    Yeah, but wanna-be-Marxistosis isn’t aggressively contagious. It is more of chronic disorder that seems to have an affinity for tenured liberal-arts professors and Susan Sarandon. In most cases, the effects to the general population are diluted by common sense, but not all. In a weak political environment and encouraged by “right-thinking people” it has the potential to metastasize into something much more serious.

  116. Janice DeLong says:

    Sadly our government isn’t giving us the real swine flu case numbers. Let’s play a game shall we? Go to Google and type in Swine Flu followed by each of the 50 states names. Soon you’ll find out that 36 out of 50 states are probable infections from state sources. That’s one game I wish I didn’t play.

  117. #117 So we should trust Google Maps (where anyone can put in information) over the CDC? This is my point–Get good information.

  118. MAC,
    What on earth are you talking about?

  119. Janice DeLong says:

    I never said a thing about Google Maps. Look for information to Read.

  120. Alex Smith says:

    Looks like #117 is onto something. I just typed in Swine Flu Florida and found confirmed cases the Florida state government has confirmed but the feds won’t. Why?

  121. #121 Confirmed means that it’s been typed by the CDC. There has been a big problem with states declaring a find when it is just the regular flu. Until the type is confirmed it may just be a regular case of the flu, which has actually been a problem, with lots of mis-confermations. This is important because schools and business may close and suddenly it was not a case of H1N1. That’s why google is not the most reliable source. You can take that as a rule of thumb on most things too.

  122. Because of Mad Cow Disease I am not allowed to donate blood in the US anymore. Selling my plasma in Provo is how I bought food while at BYU.

  123. Alex Smith says:

    Well the CDC just confirmed more cases at this very moment so I guess I have my hard numbers now.

  124. #124 Yes they are the ones to watch.

  125. # 116 was completely incomprehensible for me as well, although “wanna-be-Marxistosis” could be a great phrase in the right context, whatever that might be.

  126. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 115
    I didn’t know that. Bummer. I’ve always steered my needle-phobic friends here in CA toward FluMist. We get the shot at work for free. They make it so easy. A nurse comes through every area and it’s poke, poke, poke. New needle each time, hopefully. :)

  127. John C., 119

    I was replying to the comparison between the number of swine flu deaths worldwide and the number of cholera deaths in Zimbabwe.

    The human crisis in Zimbabwe is 100% man-made. Mugabe, a self-avowed Marxist, took one of the healthiest countries in sub-Saharan Africa and turned into a human disaster. The swine-flu is a public health issue. The decline in life expectancy in Zimbabwe, from a relatively healthy 60 years to 37 years (one of the lowest life expectancies anywhere in the world, of which cholera is only a small contributor) is a political problem.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zimbabwe#Decline_.281999.E2.80.93present.29

  128. MAC, you are right about much, but it is still a deadly disease that spreads easily.

    “transmits like common influenza” — actually, the common influenza can be stopped dead by keeping the temperature and humidity below or above its threshold. Do that and you block a common influenza infection pattern.

    Can swine flu be stopped by just turning up the heat?

  129. Are you saying that Mugabe deliberately infected his populace with cholera? I agree that he is likely crazy enough, but this seems far fetched, at least as far-fetched as arguing that an abstract political idea is an infectious disease or that it somehow causes human suffering in a vacuum.

  130. Are you saying that Mugabe deliberately infected his populace with cholera?

    No, I am suggesting that Mugabe and his cronies are almost completely responsible for the human suffering and social destruction that allowed a cholera epidemic to occur in Zimbabwe.

  131. Steve Evans says:

    MAC’s #131 is correct.

  132. #111,

    On the positive side, if it wasn’t for the 1900′s pandemic, Edward Cullen would have lived a normal life and Stephenie Meyer would not be able to enchant millions of ladies with her luscious stories. The glass is half full now.

  133. re # 131, now that’s more straightforward and understandable — and completely correct.

  134. I have no problem with #131, just with strawman arguments being attached to it.

  135. I’d have to agree that this swine flu scare is not the end of the world and hopefully the majority of people will not be drawn into a panic over it. Take precautions but don’t freak out.

  136. Bull Moose says:

    Where exactly do we draw the line between “taking precautions” and “freaking out?” I’m pretty clear on which side of the line more frequent hand washing, hand sanitizers, and limiting contact crowded public places fall.

    But, what about avoiding public transportation like our Vice President suggested, is that “freaking out?” What about wearing a face mask?

    Checking CDC’s website is taking precaution, but what about checking drudgereport.com is that “freaking out?” Would I be better of checking HuffPo?

    I just want to know so I don’t cross that line. Heaven forbid that I “freak out” and be overly cautious about this. I don’t want to look like a fool when this all shakes out!

  137. Obviously useless panic is … useless. But if you are concerned and actually take measures to address the potential risks, then that’s a good thing. Here are some things that need repeating.

    1) Flu pandemics are a normal feature of human history, and are not started by malefactors. Yet there are rumors during every pandemic that the flu is the result of a deliberate campaign by ______ (fill in the blank with whatever group or organization is hated and feared.) Ignore all such rumors and laugh at them.

    2) In addition to all the normal stuff like handwashing, using tissues, not getting close to infected people, staying home from work or school if ill, etc., it’s also important to realize that in a pandemic, many people become ill all at once. That’s the main thing that makes it different from ordinary flu. Almost nobody has any resistance to it, so 1/3 of the population might be sick during the 3 to 6 weeks of a “wave”, while perhaps another 1/3 will stay home to care for the first third. This is the worst case scenario. How will your workplace function with 1/3 of its normal people in place? Probably not very effectively. And this is true for the local power plants, water treatment plants, etc. If the miners aren’t mining coal and the truckers aren’t hauling it, in our global just in time economy, the power plants can’t burn it either. So there may be a temporary loss of key services while the pandemic is at its highest point. Be ready for that in case it happens. Have food and water storage so you can take care of your family and reach out to help your neighbors in need.

    I don’t think it’s a good idea to tell people there’s nothing to worry about. There is. Pandemic flu can be a serious disruption to the fabric of society lasting from 3 to 6 weeks per wave. Hopefully it won’t be this time around. However, the CDC has set the level at 5, meaning a pandemic is imminent. In addition to the precautions given all around, I think it’s prudent to be prepared for possible loss of services like electricity, natural gas, water, food deliveries, etc. If we’re prepared then we don’t need to panic.

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