Utterly Meaningless » Blog Archive » OT: H5N1
  • OT: H5N1

    Filed at 9:40 am under by dcobranchi

    Avian flu. Bird flu. Whatever.

    Diane Cameron thinks that the potential for pandemic has been way over-hyped.

    It’s a shame in many ways. We’ve forgotten that getting the flu used to mean a couple of days in bed reading junk fiction, a chance to watch daytime TV with no apologies and a sure-fire way to drop five pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now we are afraid of chickens and turkeys and geese. And no snacks for the backyard birdie either. The sky is falling, the sky is falling…” Learn to home-school your children before the quarantine,” one Web site urges. Newsweek’s flu story used the words ominous, threat, killer, lethal, violent, urgent, alarming, terror and deadly — and then offered in closing: “But don’t panic.”

    …Instead of stressing about the one in 100,000 odds of dying from the flu, as we now know it, we should try to grasp the one medical fact that is 100 percent guaranteed: Life is always fatal.

    I don’t know if the potential has been over-hyped. I do know that Cameron is downplaying a serious risk. Perhaps for a “normal” flu strain the odds are 1 in 100,000. H5N1 has been running about 50 percent mortality for folks who are symptomatic. What percentage of people get flu in a normal winter? Five? Ten? What if half of those were to die? If H5N1 mutates to be easily transmitted between humans, there is a non-zero chance that we’d be looking at those kinds of numbers. And how would the rest of society react? I’d expect there to be widespread fear and panic. Who’d want to go grocery shopping if there was a chance that you might get sick? Or bring it home to your kids? Who’d want to go to work?

    Yes, guard against the hype. Take everything with a grain of salt. But don’t pooh-pooh the potential. The scientists who do this for a living are taking H5N1 very seriously.

    5 Responses to “OT: H5N1”

    Comment by
    November 7th, 2005
    at 11:33 am

    It’s not hyped.

    A typical flu infects 30 to 60 million people in the US each year. The death rate is less than 1% – approx 36,000 in the US.

    The pandemic flu in 1918 infected one in four Americans. The mortality rate was 2.5% – 45-50 million died worldwide.

    The mortality rate of H5N1 is 50-60%. It’s hitting healthy kids & young adults particularly hard – like the 1918 flu. (The Oct 2005 National Geographic magazine has a good article about the H5N1 flu.)

    Fun fact: More people died of 1918 Spanish Flu than of “Black Death” – bubonic plague – in Europe from 1347-1351.

    Comment by
    November 8th, 2005
    at 11:52 am

    It’s interesting how different media outlets are spinning this. My local news has been saying Iowans should be more afraid of the “regular” flu than the Avian strain, and I’ve read that it mostly affects people who handle birds for a living. I’ve also read that the “50% mortality rate” is only for those who were sick enough to be hospitalized.

    Comment by
    November 8th, 2005
    at 12:49 pm

    Without misinformation where would this administration be?

    Avian flu is a Type A flu. It isn’t flu flu. It won’t strike the “normal” demographics so much as it will healthy young adults.

    It also won’t have the same course as a “normal” flu. About 50% of the folks who died from Spanish flu died within 24 hours of getting the bug!

    The Type A flu also doesnt’ hang around. It is here for a year or two and it is gone, forever.

    There would appear to be a 40 to 60 year cycle on Type A flu with the last one being the Swine flu in the 60s. You will notice that it isn’t being mentioned in the news. Hmmmmm, wouldn’t be because it doesn’t come with as big a bang in the scare factor department, now would it?

    And, you’re right, Daryl (The scientists who do this for a living are taking H5N1 very seriously), they DO THIS FOR A LIVING. There is BIG money in research now. Folks used to do this because they were dedicated to finding cures. Now they do it because it is a multi-billion dollar industry.

    Folks need to step back and take a look at what has happened to the “industry” since it became an industry. Since the government started throwing billions of dollars at research. All kinds of little purple pills have been invented but not too many real cures for anything serious.

    And, I’d suggest people pay real close attention to what is being said when they talk about this “OMG, a PANDEMIC is going to KILL MILLIONS of people.” Go read the text of some of ol’ Newt’s oh so serious, I’m not a raving nut like the guy in White House, as he talks about all medical records being chipped and pushing *now* for Congress to pass legislation so that NO pharmaceutical company can be sued over *any* vaccinations.

    Welcome to 1984 and all the Sheople should line up and quietly get their shots. Why? Because *they* said so.

    Comment by
    November 10th, 2005
    at 1:31 am

    Right now it is mostly affecting people who handle birds. These viruses are constantly mutating. The problem will come if/when it mutates so that it can be transmitted from one person to another. Then we will have a big problem.

    I haven’t read anything about people getting this bug and then not getting sick enough to be hospitalized. Maybe I’m just not reading the right material?

    As avian flu viruses mutate and become more easily transmitted they do usually become somewhat less virulent.

    Comment by
    November 10th, 2005
    at 4:04 pm

    I don’t know what misinformation you’re talking about, but disaster planning is supposed to be planning for the big one – preparing for a Cat 5 storm not a Cat 1.

    When you’re planning for the next pandemic, you think about the present worst case scenario and plan for that.