Thursday, April 30, 2009

Silly Swine Flu!

I just heard last night, via twitter, "Huntsville and Madison County schools are closed tomorrow: two possible cases of swine flu."

What?  I don't mean to be rude, but this is getting a bit silly now, folks.  Please, can we stop the media overhype?  Check out this article if you want a "real" media perspective (i.e., what I'm about to say, but from a real new station instead of little old me).

According to the CDC, 1 out of 91 cases of swine flu has resulted in death.  That's a little over 1%.

Again, according to the CDC, over 200,000 people are hospitalized with "regular flu" each year, and 36,000 of those result in death.  That's a nice 18%.  They also say that 5-20% of the American population (estimated) contracts a flu virus each year.  Yes, that ends up with a lower percentage of "death rate" than the 1 in 91 of swine flu (although the 1/91 is probably more relative to the percentage of hospitalizations vs. death of regular flu).

Now, I'm not saying, "Don't be careful."  But the precautions (recommended by the CDC) are the same as for "regular" flu:

  • Stay informed. This website will be updated regularly as information becomes available.
  • Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
  • Take everyday actions to stay healthy.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
  • Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.
  • Develop a family emergency plan as a precaution. This should include storing a supply of food, medicines, facemasks, alcohol-based hand rubs and other essential supplies.
  • Call 1-800-CDC-INFO for more information.

Except I'm not so sure about that "prepare to stay in your house for weeks on end" suggestion.  Yeah, stay home from school if you get sick - not to avoid getting sick.  Do we ever shut down schools for "regular flu"?  Not really sure what the difference is.  From the World Health Organization:

What are the implications for human health?

Outbreaks and sporadic human infection with swine influenza have been occasionally reported. Generally clinical symptoms are similar to seasonal influenza but reported clinical presentation ranges broadly from asymptomatic infection to severe pneumonia resulting in death.

Since typical clinical presentation of swine influenza infection in humans resembles seasonal influenza and other acute upper respiratory tract infections, most of the cases have been detected by chance through seasonal influenza surveillance. Mild or asymptomatic cases may have escaped from recognition; therefore the true extent of this disease among humans is unknown.

Whatever.  They even admit that the "91 reported cases" may be underestimated; it just so happens that someone noticed one particular case was of a particular type, so that particular type is now getting a lot of attention.  Whatever.

What I want to know is what happened to all the antiseptic wipes that we all had to provide as part of our children's "school supplies" when they started school?  (Yeah, our kids were in Madison, but now they're not, as we've moved.)  One of my kids recently had a fairly nasty flu-like infection - we kept him home, he recovered in a day or two, and now he's fine.  Didn't even need Tamiflu or anything.  Back when we were in HSV a couple of weeks ago most of my family got sick with probably flu-like symptoms.  Whether it was allergies or flu, we don't really know.  But we're all still here.

Be careful, people, but don't be silly.


Christy said...

Well, now there's 3 cases, so they've extended the shut down of the schools to two weeks!

Tony M said...

Ridiculous. I can say nothing more.