Tag Archives: swine flu

Pan(dem)ic Does Not Equal Panic

Debbie says:

Body image isn’t just about how we look, or how we think we look. It’s also about how we feel, including how healthy and safe we feel.

Last week, I read something about a “severe form” of the H1N1 flu which was reputedly putting young and healthy people into intensive care. This report turns out to be a small part of a big story. The reporting source is the World Health Organization. They put this information in the middle of their report, after this news:

The clinical picture of pandemic influenza is largely consistent across all countries. The overwhelming majority of patients continue to experience mild illness.

Without real numbers, here’s what they say about the severe form:

Perhaps most significantly, clinicians from around the world are reporting a very severe form of disease, also in young and otherwise healthy people, which is rarely seen during seasonal influenza infections. In these patients, the virus directly infects the lung, causing severe respiratory failure. Saving these lives depends on highly specialized and demanding care in intensive care units, usually with long and costly stays.

During the winter season in the southern hemisphere, several countries have viewed the need for intensive care as the greatest burden on health services. Some cities in these countries report that nearly 15 percent of hospitalized cases have required intensive care.

This is, of course, worrisome. At the same time, if 15 percent of hospitalized cases is 15 people, that’s very different than if it’s 150 or 1500 people. And we’re looking at what the WHO calls “a small number” of cases.

Sandy Szwarc at Junk Food Science doesn’t address the issue of the severe form; instead, she is her usual clear and informative self on the progress of the pandemic in general.

In reality, the pandemic H1N1 variant has proven to remain far less virulent (milder) than the seasonal flu, as evidenced in Australia and the United States. As of last week, the total number of influenza-related deaths in the United States — including from the H1N1 pandemic — have remained below epidemic levels and resulted in 2009 being the mildest flu year in more than a decade.

“If we have to have influenza, I would clearly choose novel H1N1,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, just told the Wall Street Journal.

Sandy goes on to talk about the way the pandemic is being used to sell

… 133 H1N1 products believed to be fraudulent and of criminal activity associated with the swine flu virus The list of fraudulent products include air purifying systems, body washes and shampoos, protective devices, masks and gloves, hand sanitizers and gels, inhaler products, herbal flu remedies, sprays, supplements and teas, and H1N1 tests.”

And that doesn’t even count the products that the Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission haven’t gone after yet.

Googling “severe H1N1” reveals that roughly 80% of the news sources are Fox News and Fox News affiliates, and most of the rest picked it up from Fox. I had to look for a while before I found what I consider to be a reputable news source: the New York Times picking up a Reuters article. No one, not Fox, not the Times, and not anyone else I looked at quotes anything from the WHO report except for the severe form information: the quotation you’ll see at the top of this post seems to be something the mainstream media doesn’t think is important or interesting.

So, don’t panic, don’t believe everything you read or hear, and don’t by over-the-counter crap that claims it will keep you safe. Instead, wash your hands, make sure your kids wash their hands, and go on about your business.