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Showing posts with label flu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label flu. Show all posts

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday Morning Minutes

Back after an unplanned break. So...
  1. Nancy Pelosi taking pot shots at the CIA? Really? I know that they regularly take one for the team but the CIA knows how to fight dirty (if they don't we're in bigger trouble than I thought). My money is on the CIA in this fight.

  2. Drought, Politics Trouble Farmers In California. Why is it that when there is a dispute over water farmers (the ones responsible for growing the food you stuff your face with every day) get shafted? Why turn around and complain about how much food costs if you're going to do stuff that ruins crops or keeps farmers from planting enough to meet your demands? Trying to portray as "greedy" farmers who want enough water to keep their crops alive long enough to harvest them suggests a complete disconnect from what the lives of farmers are actually like. Why aren't the people who live in an arid climate but want to act like they live in a rain forest not the greedy ones? In the long run cheap food is more important to me than a green lawn in the desert, a full pool, a clean car, and 20 minute showers everyday. But that's just me.

  3. People are still flipping out about swine flu. At this rate I almost expect roving gangs of health officials to start accosting small children with runny noses out of fear they may be carrying the virus.

  4. I found it interesting that just as the Sri Lankan government started their final push to defeat separatist Tamil Tigers we suddenly started getting all these stories about how the conflict was hurting civilians and maybe the Sri Lankan government should pull back and not be so hard on the rebels for the sake of the people they'd been holding hostage all these years. Well the Sri Lankan government bit the bullet and forged ahead despite the bad press they were getting. Now they are claiming to have killed the leader of the Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka Claims Victory, Rebel Leader Killed.
    The announcement sparked mass celebrations around the country, and people poured into the streets of Colombo dancing and singing.

    Prabhakaran's death has been seen as crucial in bringing closure to this war-wracked Indian Ocean island nation. If he had escaped, he could have used his large international smuggling network and the support of Tamil expatriates to spark a new round of guerrilla warfare here.

    "Myself and most of my friends gathered here have narrowly escaped bombs set off by the Tigers. Some of our friends were not lucky," said Lal Hettige, 47, a businessman celebrating in Colombo's outdoor market. "We are happy today to see the end of that ruthless terrorist organization and its heartless leader. We can live in peace after this."
    I wonder what they would be the news in Sri Lanka today if the government had responded to the bad press by delaying their advance.

  5. For those contemplating the greatness (or not) of a national health care system (or not), contemplate this (which I believe refers to this) and this.

Swine Flu Swindle

I'm still steaming over the swine flu swindle of 2009. And I'm not talking about those hucksters selling fake remedies and preventatives to panicked consumers.
A crash effort to analyze the genes of the swine flu virus has revealed that it first emerged in humans last year — most likely last fall.

"The consistent range we're getting out is the second half of last year — between June and December," says Oliver Pybus of Oxford University. "The best estimate is the middle of that range, kind of September."

That means the newly recognized virus has been hiding in plain sight for the past eight months or so. Researchers say it probably had been circulating in Mexico and causing disease there, but its presence was masked by cases of regular flu and the absence of lab tests to identify the newcomer.

Seeing as how no one noticed a statistically significant rise in flu deaths last flu season I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this "new" virus isn't any more menacing than the old ones. Of course those who fanned the flames of hysteria over this have to say things like,
"We're going to be actively monitoring what it does as it moves through the population," says Joan Nichols. "As it turns around and comes back to us in the fall, we'll know much more about it."

If it starts causing severe and fatal disease at a high rate in the Southern Hemisphere, that will be obvious enough. Scientists will quickly analyze viruses from such cases to see if they can identify the genetic changes that correlate with increase virulence.

But unfortunately, the absence of such an obvious signal this summer may not mean the virus won't evolve into a pandemic killer in the fall. That's because researchers know relatively little about the genes that confer virulence.

I'm wondering why it took so long for someone to ask this question, Why So Many Swine Flu Deaths In Mexico? Shouldn't that have been the first question to ask, along with the question of whether the deaths were statistically significant, before panicking the world? And given that the virus has been circulating since last fall shouldn't we also be asking why it wasn't noticed until April of this year (aside from the fact that symptoms are indistinguishable from those of regular flu)?

There is a saying that a lie can run 'round the world while the truth is still getting its boots. Well here comes a bit of truth and reasoning.

Deaths In Early Virus Outbreaks Can Be Misleading
The first reports about swine flu in Mexico made the disease sound highly lethal. But now, public health officials are saying the new H1N1 strain may be no more deadly than plain old seasonal flu.


With swine flu, as with SARS and West Nile, the first identified cases in Mexico were people in hospitals who'd become very ill.

Initially, health officials had detected a surprising number of otherwise healthy young people hospitalized with pneumonia. Many of them died. And the first tests for swine flu were done in this group.

That made sense, says Dr. Frederick Hayden, a flu expert at the University of Virginia, but was bound to make the virus look more dangerous than it actually is.

"The hospitalized patients really represent only a fraction of all those affected," he says.

And mild cases of swine flu could have gone undetected for weeks, Hayden says. But this time, flu experts got a break. They found out that the virus had infected dozens of students from a high school in New York after some of them had visited Mexico.

A Week after I started the first draft of this post people are still doing a Chicken Little dance over swine flu. W.H.O. May Raise Alert Level as Swine Flu Cases Leap in Japan.

Now seems to be a good time to book a trip to Mexico since everybody else is staying away out of irrational fear of the flu.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Monday Morning Minutes

I'm a day late with this since the swine flu hysteria came to my neighbourhood. Honestly 36,000 people die of the regular seasonal flu in the US every year and people are freaking out about a flu that has thus far killed less than 100 world wide.
  1. Here's what the CDC says about seasonal flu.

    Every year in the United States, on average:

    • 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;
    • more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications; and
    • about 36,000 people die from flu-related causes.

    I'm wondering if every running nose will get school closed down this fall when the regular flu season starts again.

    There have been 279 confirmed US cases of swine flu so far and 1 death, of a kid who came from Mexico to get medical treatment. World wide there have been 1276 confirmed cases so far. Is this worth China rounding up every Mexican it could find and essentially holding then hostage? No. Is it worth keeping thousands of kids out of school? No.

    I know people are blaming the media for hyping this up but they seem to be getting a lot of help.
    In the US, the swine flu virus spread to 30 states Sunday with a total of 226 confirmed cases, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

    Health officials cautioned that the rise in cases had more to do with increased and better reporting of test results than a rapid spread of the virus.

    While Mexico claimed the virus was 'declining', the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva said the virus could return and the world might even witness a surge in the spring.

    The WHO rejected an assertion by the CDC that the mutated swine flu virus A/H1N1 did not appear to have the same deadly power as the Spanish influenza virus of 1918 that killed more than 25 million people.

    WHO director Michael Ryan said that 'these viruses are very unpredictable' and that it could still turn out that the swine flu could develop into a pandemic.

    Ryan said that the WHO still had to assume that alarm level 6 - that of a pandemic - would be reached. At the moment, WHO has an alert status of 5.


  2. Why are people freaking out about pork products! How thick can you get? Wash your hands and leave the bacon alone okay. Good grief.


  3. Anybody know anything about the American journalists kidnapped by North Korea? I bet they'd give them back if we told the North Koreans they had been exposed to swine flu.


  4. I don't get all the fuss over Senator Arlan Specter jumping ship and siding with the Democrats. After the stimulus debacle he had to do something to try to save his political career. That whole stimulus mess will be a lead life preserver around the necks of a lot of politicians come election time.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Oink Oink

Chicken little has come home to roost. The boys school will be closed all week thanks to fear of the swine flu. The closure could continue into a second week. The boys are just going to love this. Not. They really like school and this change of routine is going to really throw them for a loop. Apparently a student who was sick had some connection to the St Francis Prep school in Queens that seems to be the source of most cases in New York state.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday Morning Minutes

All swine all flu all the time. I think most of the media coverage so far has been of the "if it bleeds it leads" variety but I did find a few things worth noting.
  1. For a bit of perspective on the potential pandemic consider,
    Well up until WWII and the development of antibiotics and mass vaccinations, our forbearers suffered through plague after plague of such scale that they make even AIDS look trivial by comparison.

    After discussing the yellow fever outbreak that devastated Memphis, Tennessee in the 1870s the blogger notes,
    So yeah, Swine flu can be fairly nasty, and yeah it can spread fast thanks to modern transportation, but our forbearers wouldn’t even have noticed it as an annoyance. We should all be grateful we live in an age when such a minor communicable disease causes us concern.

  2. A bit more perspective,
    Swine flu: nothing new
    As of this writing, 80 people in Mexico have succumbed to swine flu. By comparison, the CDC estimates that 36,000 people in the United States die each year of influenza-related illnesses. And in spite of this, we in the medical community still have a hard time convincing people to get their flu shots. If you’re not afraid of influenza, then you shouldn’t be afraid of the swine flu. Even in the event that someone gets infected with swine flu, we have medications with demonstrated effectiveness against the strain that’s currently active

  3. Lessons from the last flu pandemic nearly a century ago,
    How (and How Not) to Battle Flu: A Tale of 23 Cities
    “What our study shows,” he continued, “is that interventions even without a vaccine can be effective in blocking transmission. What’s much less certain is whether society is prepared to bear the costs of implementing such intrusive and costly measures for the months that would be required to manufacture a vaccine.”

  4. Speaking of swine. Did you hear the one about the dude who asked a beauty queen a loaded question, got an honest answer, and then flipped out because he didn't like the answer and the fair weather friends who deserted her rather than stick up for a friend? Way to go people. You sure showed her.

  5. Buzzing the New York City skyline with a 747 jet and a couple of F-16s for a photo op (come on now), epic fail. Trying to blame the FAA for not giving information to the public that they were told was classified makes Charles Schumer (my senator y'all!) look like a flustered parent trying to cover for an errant child. I'm not sure which is more disturbing, that no one involved in making this decision realised the trauma inducing potential of this photo op or that no one cared how New Yorkers would react. Next time try photoshop okay. It's cheaper and won't give anybody flash backs.

  6. As the witch hunt begins, All I can do is shake my head. That and hope they don't decide to come for me too seeing as how conservative and right wing types are supposed hotbeds of potential homegrown terrorism and need watching.