I'm sure by now, everyone has heard about the Swine Flu outbreaks. To summarize, "Swine Flu" is a strain of influenza that is zoonotic - which means its a disease that starts in animals, but can be caught by people too. At some point, the disease can progress and change to the point that it is not only infectious between animals and people, but also from people to people.
That's what they believe has happened with this strain of flu, since many of the people who have come down with swine flu apparently had no contact with any infected swine.
There's lots of talk in the media about possible pandemics (which is an epidemic that is global rather than regional). Lots of talk about "killer strains of the virus", "deadly swine flu", etc.
I'm not saying there's nothing to worry about. Its important to be aware of potential problems like this, as I firmly believe that something like this could rear up in the future and give us LOTS of grief. Particularly a strain of bug that has been weaponized in a lab specifically for that purpose. That's a very real risk, and something that I may write about in the future. Zoonotic Disease Control is one of the primary responsibilities I have professionally.
However, I AM saying that you should take all the press generated panic with a big old grain of salt until you look at the actual facts from reliable sources, and then view what's REALLY going on in the perspective of "the big picture". If you're worried a lot about stuff like swine flu, I encourage you to do your own research and evaluation.
Here's some things you may not be aware of:
Remember West Nile Virus?
Remember the "reporters" every night on the news leading off with stories about the "deadly strain" of virus that could pop up at any moment in YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?!! My office was barraged on a daily basis with panic filled reports every time someone found a dead bird in their yard. Long after the state lab stopped testing birds to track the progression of the virus - the news stations continued to encourage people to report any "suspicious" dead birds they would find... drove me up the fucking wall.
Ever wonder what happened with that?
According to a friend and colleague in the Texas Department of State Health Services - Zoonosis Control Division:
It's here now in my part of Texas. It has been here for a couple of years now. It will always be here. Most people in North Texas have been exposed to it, many have contracted the virus(whether they realize it or not), and all those people that are still walking around are now immune to it. A few people died, yes, but they were largely folks with severe immune system problems. People die every year from the regular old generic flu and pneumonia in the US.... about 63,000 people, to be exact, according to CDC data.
The VAST majority of people, though, that got West Nile suffered regular old flu-like symptoms for a week or so and then got over it.
So, why aren't you hearing about this non-story on the news?
Because you don't pack in the viewers and ad-revenue telling people that there's nothing to panic about. You just skip over the "West Nile turned out to be nothing" story, and move right along to the "Oh my GOD, here comes Swine Flu!" story.
You can repeat the above scenario over and over again, substituting "SARS", "Bird Flu", and any number of other diseases for "West Nile Virus" - and it would be the same story.
You're hearing a lot about Swine Flu victims in the US, now. Lots of talk about it being a "deadly strain". At the time that I'm writing this, did you know there are no reports of Swine flu related deaths in the US? Every confirmed "victim" of Swine Flu in this outbreak in the US has recovered fully. Even the kids that have caught it.
There are reports from Mexico of 81 deaths so far, related to Swine Flu. How many of those people had compromised immune systems? How many were really, really old? How many had access to even minimal health care? Criminy... the last time I checked you could die in Mexico just from drinking the f-ing water. 81 deaths from a new flu strain, while definitely not great news, is hardly and End of Days catastrophe.
There will probably be deaths in the US from Swine Flu, eventually.
Most likely, though, the fatalities will be limited to people who run a risk of dieing from colds and flu anyway (remember the 63000 cited before?). There is a slim chance that this could blow up into something that the population in general should be concerned about, but not much of a chance.
You'd sure never think that listening to the news, though. Seems like they want to scare the crap out of us over everything.
Want to worry about something REAL?... Next time you're in your car, think about the nearly 14,000 people that will die this year as a result of dickheads that can't resist the urge to get behind the wheel of a car after they drink alcohol.
As soon as I posted this, I trotted over to Yahoo news to see what else was going on in the world.
Apparently there's nothing else to worry about, because Swine Flu will kill us all.
The most recent story focuses on how New York City is dealing with the "Public Health threat". It seems that a bunch of kids went to Mexico on Spring Break a couple of weeks ago and caught Swine Flu. Some of them were sick with the swine flu for a couple of days, and then they all got better.
Nationwide, though, maybe the problem is more serious?...
"Federal health officials said Sunday that 20 swine flu cases have been reported so far in New York, Ohio, Kansas, Texas and California. Patients have ranged in age from 9 to over 50. At least two were hospitalized. All recovered or are recovering."
Ok... all recovered, and only two people in the entire US have been sick enough to even go into the hospital?
So, when people hear the press repeatedly bombard them with ominous stories of impending doom - how do they react?
This is how:
"Parent Jackie Casola said Sunday that her son Robert Arifo, a St. Francis sophomore, told her on Thursday that a number of children had been sent home because of illness. On Friday, he said hardly anyone was in school.
Casola said she expected to keep him home from school on Monday, even if it was open. He hasn't shown any symptoms, but some of his friends have, she said, and she has been extra vigilant about his health.
"I must have drove him crazy, I kept taking his temperature in the middle of the night," she said."
Sigh........ Lord help these people when they actually have something REAL to worry about.