Friday, May 01, 2009

From Panic to Pandemic

A couple of posts ago I wrote about the way people panic these days, as soon as there's the slightest hint of something out of the ordinary. (Another example is the people in the States who are buying up six months worth of food and other necessities to last them through the Recession.)
I mentioned the swine flu 'pandemic' in the post, and was rather cynical about it. Seems that we're now reaching the pandemic level - according to the World Health Organisation. But, as MacDoctor notes: Bear in mind, however, that we essentially get a pandemic of influenza every year. Although this virus is likely to be significantly more dangerous than the standard influenza virus, it is also likely to turn out more like the Hong Kong flu pandemic rather than the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. There will be some tragedies and some disruption to life - but the world will not come to an end.
MacDoctor also lists five myths about swine flu, which make useful reading:
1. You can get Swine Flu from eating pork/ham/bacon
2. If Swine Flu becomes pandemic it will kill 50 million people worldwide like in 1918

3. Swine Flu is just media hype
4. The current flu vaccine offers protection against Swine Flu
5. The antivirals have terrible side effects and will kill more people than the Swine Flu
These are an interesting mix of ideas, and MacDoctor deals sensibly with each one. By the way, MacDoctor is Dr. Jim McVeagh, who is currently working in the New Zealand public hospital system and in Accident and Medical practise. He thinks politics and health make strange, and often uncomfortable, bedfellows and that the law of unintended consequences is particularly bitter in medicine.
One other thing: an article from AAP in the paper today reports that
Worldwide, seasonal flu kills between 250,000 and 500,000 people in an average year. That's far more scary than the current panic about swine flu....
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