Swine-flu scare fizzles

Schools closed for fear of swine flu are reopening. Federal health officials say swine flu is no more dangerous than other flu variations. 

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  1. Richard Nieporent says:

    What happened? I thought we were all supposed to die from this swine flu pandemic. Once again the government and the news media have cried wolf (SARS, Bird Flu, Ebola, Mad Cow Disease, etc.).

  2. Not only that, they recycled a scare from the seventies.

  3. I just found this video on You Tube that really shows how germs and viruses spread. It is so cool. It’s meant for kids but I even learned a lot!

  4. Tom West says:

    Once again the government and the news media have cried wolf (SARS, Bird Flu, Ebola, Mad Cow Disease, etc.).

    The trouble with successfully preventing an outbreak is that everyone assumes that the outbreak would never have occurred without the preventative measures.

    Here’s a scary example:

    In 1918, during the terrible pandemic of that year, Philadelphia refused significantly delayed NPI (closing schools, canceling public gatherings), and look what happened compared to St. Louis, which did.


    Essentially, if you wait until your certain, then you’re already too late. This means you *must* have false alarms in order successfully mitigate deaths.

  5. Richard Nieporent (and Joanne) — what happened? Public health measures have worked.

    It wasn’t a “scare” in the sense of being manipulated over nothing. The death rate figures in Mexico were really frightening. It isn’t yet clear why the disease was so much more virulent in Mexico, and relatively mild here.

    The publish-health blog Effect Measure wrote (http://scienceblogs.com/effectmeasure/2009/05/swine_flu_what_does_so_far_so.php

    No one on the public health side has over reacted. When an outbreak or pandemic is unfolding, you get only one chance. The window is a narrow one. CDC (and WHO) have acquitted themselves well, so far. CDC’s daily briefings have been straightforward and informative. The public, understandably, has bounced back and forth from fear to relief and back again. I don’t think either pole is avoidable. If the scientists are baffled and uncertain, the public has a right to be, too. But CDC has been steady and consistent in their approach (more so than HHS or Homeland Security, in my view) and they clearly understand the most important thing: this outbreak is still evolving and it is premature to write it off.

    The idea this is “mild” flu virus is so far true, but mild is a relative term, as we have pointed out here. And “so far” is another important qualifier. This virus is spreading relatively quickly, but it isn’t everywhere and not much time has passed. With exceedingly virulent strains like the 1918 virus many people died relatively quickly but with flu death usually comes weeks after the onset of infection. Not that many people have been infected as yet.

  6. Mike Curtis says:

    Oh, I get it now. It’s like the national weather service predicting 100 out of the last three significant storms. Or; if you wish, Chicken Little squawking until he’s finally vindicated by a falling sky. No harm, no foul. It’s best to vote on the side of caution…no matter who pays the cost of preventing something that didn’t happen.

    Saints be praised. I’ve discovered something more incurable than a virus: a significant non-event manufactured by people who are paid to prevent it.

    On the other hand, had a student coughed on me, I could have used it as a reason to demand that my school shut down in the interest of the common good. Then, I could have escaped the pandemic by isolating myself in the middle of a lake with a fishing pole and a cooler full of sugar-free, lowcal, non- caffeinated, effervescent beverages. Darn, sometimes I think pragmatism works against doing what feels right.

  7. Richard Brandshaft says:

    It’s better to buckle your seat belt and not have an accident than to not buckle your seat belt and go through the windshield. An astounding number of people don’t get that.