Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why you Should be Concerned but Should not Panic About A(H1/N1) (Swine Flu).

The western media are at it again, pushing the panic and the apathy buttons all at once.

Here are some informed, well-written, intelligible discussions on what the WHO was calling swine flu and is now calling A(H1/N1):

1) Interview with the US CDC virus chief.
2) Explanation of the WHO's pandemic scale
3) More intelligent discussion of the epidemic
4) Science Insider look at the activity of health agencies around the world

What should you do?

Stop reading or listening to NBC, CBS, CNN, etc. Seriously.

Start reading the posts on the CDC's site:
http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/index.htm

the WHO's site:
http://www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/en/index.html

The US government site set up just for this:
http://www.pandemicflu.gov/

Seriously, stop using the major cable and broadcast agencies for news; they're for entertainment, not news.

Here are some reasons for concern:
1) This particular strain has not been seen in humans. Therefore, no humans have built an immunity (although there may be unexpected sources of an immunity in random people). There are many reasons this lack of immunity would not cause every infected person to die.
2) The spread of this virus is faster than we've seen before.
3) In the US, if this does go pandemic (which seems to be the expectation), we don't have the health care infrastructure to handle a lot of sick people all at once.
4) H1N1 has started migrating between humans. If it is or becomes efficient enough in transferring, we may be too far behind the curve to do more than mitigate its effects.
5) Relatively young, healthy people are succumbing to this. Usually only the elderly, the already ill, and the very young die from influenza.
6) The people most likely to get sick (low income workers, part-time workers, and mothers of school-aged children, etc.) are also the least likely to have any paid sick-leave. Therefore, they're the most likely to continue to go to work (and send their children to school) even if they are sick. Guess who is at the very bottom of the paid sick leave ladder...food service workers.


Here are some reasons for hope:
1) Cleanliness is the best prevention, and cleanliness is easy.
2) The CDC in the US and the WHO and its member states are as aware and on top of this as they can be.
3) Most cases outside of Mexico have been relatively mild. It's not clear why.

Some Dos and Don'ts:
Do:
Wash thoroughly; keep clean.
Stay home if you feel sick.
Stock up at least two weeks worth of food and water. Seriously.
Make sure your prescriptions have recently been filled.
Make sure you are stocked on other medications.
Learn how you can help in a public health emergency. Contact your local/county/state health agency if you think you might have anything at all to contribute.

Don't:
Don't listen to Joe Biden.
Don't panic about pork. If you like pork, cook it well and eat it.
Don't rush out to buy antibacterials. Influenza is a virus, antibacterials won't do anything to stop it.
Don't panic. Prepare.

5 comments:

deborah said...

O.K....I get the don't panic and wash, wash, wash but it is really hard not to listen to those quasi entertaining news shows that run 24 / 7... CNN being my favorite.

Kerry said...

We seriously do not have two weeks worth of stored water (unless you're counting the water in the water heater--ugh) and I doubt we have two weeks of stored food. Seriously. I'm just saying.

Jennifer said...

I like how all the news organizations are backpedaling now and telling people it's fairly mild and not to panic when they were the ones inducing the panic in the first place.

Grumpator said...

They should post "Don't Panic" in big friendly letters across every web page and news broadcast. That might help.

Kelly said...

Can I add:

Don't go out and buy antivirals like Tamiflu just because you think you might need them. Taking drugs like this unnecessarily may cause the influenza virus to mutate to a potentially drug-resistant form.

This is probably only an issue here in New Zealand, where we are the ONLY country in the world where Tamiflu is available over-the-counter. Pharmacists have been lobbying for a change to the recently changed regulations which made this available OTC in the first place, but the government is determined to keep it "available" so allows it to be sold OTC to people who display flu-like symptoms.

The ironies of this policy have already been discussed at length... but I can't believe the government here could be so short-sighted. I predict New Zealand flu will (sadly) make an appearance within a couple of years. Sigh.