Friday, May 01, 2009

For Those who are Interested,

...my thoughts on the Swine Flu Fear Pandemic.

Tarrant County has taken a very proactive stand against the Swine Flu breakout, some would say too proactive seeing as how there are only 5 confirmed cases and 21 probable cases of the Swine Flu in the county.

Right now all Fort Worth and Cleburne ISD schools are closed for at least a week. One of the larger charity fund raising events of the year has been canceled, and more closures and cancellations are being announced with every news break.

This reaction to the Swine Flu is interesting. From all accounts, the Swine Flu has the same symptoms and treatments as our routine Asian Flu that sweeps through the nation a time or two each year. This "routine" flu outbreak infects anywhere from 5 to 20% of the population and is responsible for an average of 36,000 deaths in America each year.

So we have a flu that acts and reacts pretty much the same as our normal flu outbreaks, and this flu has infected a very small number of people (a whopping 141 confirmed cases in the entire country as of this morning). Why all the hysteria?

Leaving politics and the media's penchant for "creating" crisis aside, I see two reasons for our local reaction to this flu outbreak.

First is the fact that there is no vaccine for this variant of the Swine Flu. A lack of a vaccine means that there are less barriers to the spread of the flu and that there is the possibility that more people will catch it. I could not find any hard facts about just how many adults get flu shots, but it appears that somewhere around a third of us are vaccinated each year. If the vaccine is targeted correctly, that is a significant barrier to the spread of the flu. It is quite possible that without a vaccinated population, this flu could spread and infect many more people than a 'normal' flu outbreak. Since this flu acts and reacts similar to the 'normal' flu outbreaks, more infections should result in more deaths. Slowing down the spread of the flu could save lives.

The second reason for our local reaction to this flu outbreak might well be an exercise to determine just how effective our preparations for an Avian Flu outbreak have been. The "Bird Flu" is still out there, and it is a very real potential viral disaster. Treating the Swine Flu as a serious threat and implementing the programs that have been put in place to combat the Avian Flu will highlight any deficiencies in those programs.

Yes, I think our local officials are over reacting to the Swine Flu. I also believe that this over reaction might be justified and will help the local .govs to better prepare for a more serious outbreak.

6 comments:

Bob S. said...

Okay, I'll step and be the voice of paranoia here.

Is it possible that the .gov is exercising a little over reach for the purpose of extending their reach?

Each time one of these "crises" hit, the government seems to take more and more 'proactive' steps. Each time we expect the .gov to take more and more 'proactive' steps.

Jay G. linked to a MA bill the senate passed
http://stuckinmassachusetts.blogspot.com/2009/04/and-speaking-of-overreacting.html.

The provision that stuck in my mind was The new Senate version would allow the public health commissioner — in a public health emergency — to close or evacuate buildings, enter private property for investigations, and quarantine individuals.

Rabbit said...

ALthough I just saw Grand Prairie has asked that the Cinco de Mayo event be postponed, I'll wager that there is no hew and cry to do so for other C.de M. events out of fears of racism charges.

As for me, I won't be found in locations with high concentrations of Hispanics for the forseeable future. LULAC be damned.

Regards,
Rabbit.

author said...

I just wanted to comment on these two statistics you give.

"This reaction to the Swine Flu is interesting. From all accounts, the Swine Flu has the same symptoms and treatments as our routine Asian Flu that sweeps through the nation a time or two each year. This "routine" flu outbreak infects anywhere from 5 to 20% of the population and is responsible for an average of 36,000 deaths in America each year.

So we have a flu that acts and reacts pretty much the same as our normal flu outbreaks, and this flu has infected a very small number of people (a whopping 141 confirmed cases in the entire country as of this morning). Why all the hysteria?"

You have to remember that the 141 cases of swine flu in the US are confirmed. These are people that feel sick enough to go to their doctor and then their doctor takes the samples and gets them tested for the swine flu. Thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people may already have the swine flu.

The 5 to 20% of the population that gets the normal flu each year is only a estimate because not all of these people are confirmed cases.

I actually think the swine flu was in the Texas area previously. My wife is a doctor and she came down with a nasty flu during the end of March. I am a researcher and participated in a H1N1 (swine flu) experimental vaccine and I only had mild symptoms of the flu my wife had. Curious.

Ride Fast said...

You may very well be correct about your local officials, but I think a lot of the over reaction nationwide is simply because they can.

Just as the FBI has used Patriot Act powers to go after local small time criminals, gov't in general will use what it has whether the target is legitimate or not.

JR said...

Bob:

For the purposes of this post, I tried to leave politics out. Yes, I am sure that this "crisis" will not go un-legislated and that Federal and State .govs will attempt to use it to garner more power.

Rabbit:

As far as C de M goes, and gatherings of Hispanics, I'd be even more leery of being around groups of college kids who just returned from Spring Break in Mexico.

author:

The stats are straight from the CDC, and yes they are guestimates. With all the news coverage, pretty much anyone with a fever is going to assume they have the Swine Flu and get checked out. In the next couple of weeks we should get a more accurate idea of the spread of this flu. V works in a clinic and the folks there have been passing around the same bug for a couple of months now.

A thought just occurred. Wouldn't it be pretty easy to determine if your wife has SF antibodies as a result of previously being exposed?

Ride Fast:

Yeah, I am sure that the .gov will use this episode to curtail more of our individual freedoms and make the American people more dependent on the .gov

Bryan Willman said...

One other thing to contemplate.

The "normal" flus which kill many thousands each year appear to mostly kill the aged and infirm, or the young with immune disorders. They rarely kill healthy people.

The "special" flus - Spanish flu of 1918, and perhaps "swine flu" did or are feared will kill many healthy young people. The spanish flu killed healthy young people at a staggering rate.

If H1N1 (swine) is more or less like "normal" flu - it's not worth the hoo ha. If it's anything like the 1918 flu - look out...