Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Little Boy Crying Wolf?

From the article in the below link:

In the matter of swine flu -- and the single dumbest response to it yet -- first prize was about to go to the government of Egypt, which last week ordered a cull of the country's estimated 400,000 pigs ...

[There] is a legion of heavily credentialed panic proliferators.... the people whose terrifying forecasts you last heard during the avian flu panic of 2005 (deaths to date: 257, according to the World Health Organization) and the SARS panic of 2002-2003 (774 deaths). By contrast, garden-variety flus typically kill upwards of 30,000 Americans a year.

... science writer Wendy Orent has pointed out in the New Republic, "only the precise conditions of World War I's Western Front -- a true disease factory -- could have created a flu as virulent as the one responsible for the 1918 pandemic. . . . The virus didn't need to keep people well enough to walk about -- fresh victims were close at hand."

Sure enough, no flu pandemic has been even remotely comparable: The worst was the Asian flu of 1957-58, which killed an estimated two million people, including 70,000 in the U.S. (or about twice the annual average.)

... trend lines indicate we are better equipped than ever to minimize the effects of a pandemic.

Why? Because wealthier people tend to be healthier people, and because wealthier societies have more to invest in medicine and research, and because a higher standard of living tends to correlate with more personal space. Also, because globalization means information sharing across boundaries, and rapid adoption of best practices, and greater transparency.


1 comment:

Louise said...

One might argue that the benefits of modern technology are the reason we are now overpopulated.

I think that the best course of action is not to worry about a pandemic until you "see the whites of its eyes".