Monday, 4 May 2009

Todays Must Read

Swine Flu - Science, Pseudoscience, And Panic.

The bottom line is this - this is a new strain of flu virus which appears to be spreading. It has the capability of producing a world-wide pandemic, and if it does it could theoretically rise to the level of the 1918 pandemic which killed millions. Some of the reported deaths from Mexico were young healthy adults (which was also common in the 1918 pandemic), which can mean that the strain is virulent.

But it is too early to tell. This epidemic may also fizzle out quickly, ultimately affecting very few. In 1976 there was a swine flu epidemic with concerns that it would be the next big pandemic, but it just fizzled and amounted to nothing.

What determines whether this latest strain with be a bang or a bust is how infectious it is (how many people with catch the virus) and how virulent it is (how may infected people will die from the infection). We do not yet know how this current swine flu will behave - we don’t have enough data points yet. Probably we will not know until the pandemic is underway, or until after it has burnt itself out.

At this point in time there is no reason to panic or make major changes in your lifestyle.

I will add a caveat to that. If you are not in the habit of washing your hands, make that a major change to your lifestyle.

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