That Pig Won’t Fly

By DeusExMacintosh

In which I present, the REAL cause of the swine ‘flu outbreak…

swineflusource

… suggest that the current risk analysis might be flawed …

swinefluriskanalysis

… and point out that all the protective measures in the world still wont be much help unless you read the instruction leaflet.

swinefluprophylactic

There is no evidence of the swine flu virus spreading in a sustained way outside North America, a top World Health Organization official says.

Dr Michael Ryan, WHO Director of Global Alert and Response, praised European nations’ handling of cases and said events did not seem out of control.

Mexico has cut its suspected death toll by 75 to 101, indicating the outbreak may not be as bad as initially feared. The country has ordered a five-day shutdown in a bid to contain the virus.

Mexican Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova told the BBC that, based on samples tested, the mortality rate was comparable with that of seasonal flu.

BBC News

swineflugordo

Okay, so I’m sick and I’m bored. So sue me (and pass on my apologies to Dr Phil).

3 Comments

  1. MikeM
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    We may well be seeing what turns out to be a massive over-reaction but a report in New Scientist this week explains some of the basis for concern.

    The current swine flu virus is a mutation of the H1N1 strain that caused the 1918-19 pandemic which killed 40(?) million people. It also infected pigs. Since then it has been endemic in the pig population in the US and elsewhere. For many decades it was genetically stable and caused seasonal outbreaks of flu in pigs, which was a nuisance for pig farmers but otherwise of no great concern.

    Then in 1998 this virus strain hybridised with human- and bird-resident strains of flu and the hybrid rapidly became the dominant original strain in North American pigs and has been evolving rapidly since.

    Virtually nobody has any immunity to the current swine flu strain and current flu vaccines provide no protection. Furthermore, strains that incorporate avian genes tend to be more lethal that those that do not. Because of this and because of the effect of its ancestral strain in 1918-19, researchers and health authorities are worried that it has potential to trigger another pandemic.

    Whether it does or not depends firstly on how contagious it is and secondly how lethal it is.

    Strains that are highly lethal but not very contagious don’t cause pandemics becausethe sufferers tend to die before passing it on to others. Strains that are highly contagious but not very lethal tend, if strict measures are not taken, to infect very many people but cause relatively few deaths.

    Current indications are that the swine flu is barely contagious enough to keep going, with on average, a sufferer infecting 1.16 other people. Researchers are still wary though as the initial wave of H1N1 infection in the Northern spring and early summer of 1918 was not very contagious either, but in a second wave in the autumn, the virus had mutated and was two and a half times as contagious as a few months earlier.

    Of course the bottom line is that it may all turn out to be a damp squib and those who are unaware of the science behind the concern will point and laugh. But sooner or later there may be a really nasty one and present preparations are good practice for when it comes.

    Although cynics may say that there are too many goddam people in the world and a lethal flu virus pandemic that wiped out a third of the world’s population might do more to ameliorate climate change than humans have so far managed.

    New Scientist has a topic guide to epidemics and pandemics which posts news reports as they come to hand. You can find it at http://www.newscientist.com/topic/epidemic

  2. Posted May 5, 2009 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the link Mike. I have a copy of John M Barry’s book about the 1918 virus The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History. Absolutely chilling, and highly recommended.

  3. Posted May 6, 2009 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    If you wish to understand why authorities “over react” to these events, read “The Coming Plague” Laurie Garrett. The logic is dead simple: in the event of a truly dangerous pathogen you have very little time to stop it spreading through the community. Ignore that exponential potential for pathogen penetration into the populace and all hell will break loose.

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