Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why Swine Flu Probably Won't Kill You (and Me)

I think there's a lot the Mexican government is not telling us about swine flu. The official line is that the disease first showed itself in Mexico City about two weeks ago, killing about 150 people, out of the 2,000 or so known cases.
I don't buy it.
The disease is showing up in Mexico all the way from the Yucatan to the Texas and California borders. That suggests it's everywhere in Mexico. So it's been around longer than two weeks. The Mexicans finally owned up to it at the end of the tourism season, after the spring break crowd went home. And guess who most of the known cases outside Mexico are now? High school kids who came back a few weeks ago from Mexican vacations.
Now, about those percentages, and why they don't jibe with what we're seeing in North America. I suspect most Mexicans (along with most Canadians) don't bother going to the doctor when they get a mild flu. This flu is not striking healthy young people down dead like the Spanish flu of 1918 and the small outbreak of swine flu in 1975. In fact, not a single case in North America has required hospitalization at all.
We'll see accurate numbers in North America because every person who gets the flu in the next few months will run to a doctor and the doctors will report every case. That's what's happening now, and it's showing a far different situation than the media first came out with.
What we're seeing in North America is a mild flu traceable to Mexico. Yes, it could mutate into something more virulent. So could the flu that I had earlier this winter. They're all variations of the same virus.
Some of the Chicken Littles say we're overdue for a pandemic, and seem disappointed the bird flu of two years ago didn't make the cut. But we won't see another 1918, at least not from influenza, as long as we have anti-viral drugs, antibiotics and ventilators. We're not going to see Black Plague, either, because in the rare cases when someone catches it, it's cured with Cypro.
The media, especially TV, feeds on fear. I remember one recent Ottawa Citizen lead paragraph that said, "Be afraid. Be very afraid." Well, I suppose the Depression, which hardly resembles the 1930s, hasn't been scary enough. Terrorists haven't held up their end, either. So now it's swine flu. But swine flu is no SARS.
We'll be alright.


Anonymous said...

It's hard for the meat puppets to sex up:

"Wash you hands often."

"Get your immunization shot come next flu season, especially in Ontario where it is offered free of charge by the government. By that time, they will have the vaccine."

"If you're sick stay home."

"Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze."

Wish they would try to regardless.

Anonymous said...

Mexico City doctors comment on the REAL flu situation


I'm a specialist doctor in respiratory diseases and intensive care at the
Mexican National Institute of Health. There is a severe emergency over the
swine flu here. More and more patients are being admitted to the intensive
care unit. Despite the heroic efforts of all staff (doctors, nurses,
specialists, etc) patients continue to inevitably die. The truth is that
anti-viral treatments and vaccines are not expected to have any effect, even
at high doses. It is a great fear among the staff. The infection risk is
very high among the doctors and health staff.

There is a sense of chaos in the other hospitals and we do not know what to
do. Staff are starting to leave and many are opting to retire or apply for
holidays. The truth is that mortality is even higher than what is being
reported by the authorities, at least in the hospital where I work it. It is
killing three to four patients daily, and it has been going on for more than
three weeks. It is a shame and there is great fear here. Increasingly
younger patients aged 20 to 30 years are dying before our helpless eyes and
there is great sadness among health professionals here.

Antonio Chavez, Mexico City

I work as a resident doctor in one of the biggest hospitals in Mexico City
and sadly, the situation is far from "under control". As a doctor, I realise
that the media does not report the truth. Authorities distributed vaccines
among all the medical personnel with no results, because two of my partners
who worked in this hospital (interns) were killed by this new virus in less
than six days even though they were vaccinated as all of us were. The
official number of deaths is 20, nevertheless, the true number of victims
are more than 200. I understand that we must avoid to panic, but telling the
truth it might be better now to prevent and avoid more deaths.

Yeny Gregorio Davila, Mexico City

Ottawa Watch said...

I'm no doctor (at least of medicine) but I'm pretty sure real doctors do not use vaccines to treat diseases that are already in progress.

JA Goneaux said...

You know, if Toronto had had a real mayor back during SARS, and not a circus midget, it would have gone like this:

"You know, Mr. CNN Talking Head, flu kills 36,000 Americans a year. XXX of them were in Atlanta. Do YOU feel safe?".

Anybody remember the Italian earthquake. Killed a few hundred people...anybody? Just a few weeks ago. Bueller? Anyone?

And, with a hat tip to Neo at http://hallsofmacadamia.blogspot.com/, Jon Stewart had "bird flu" as the last of the 100 things that will kill you in Mexico. Number one was "bullet flu"...

Anonymous said...

Mexico cares about the health of their tourists like they care about their safety. When that Canadian couple got murdered the Mexican attorney general blamed two Canadian women who had a room next door and that the murdered couple had ties to organized crime. The main suspect was a local security guard who disappeared soon after.

Ottawa Watch said...

That's one of the reasons why I never go there. Mexico is a scuzzy Third World kleptocracy. I wouldn't trust their health system for a minute.
I think the Mexicans would sit on this issue until the end of the snowbird/college student tourist season, and would not give a damn if they all caught it. In fact, I've seen some stories that suggest the Mexicans didn't fess up until the Americans found it in the San Diego area.

Anonymous said...

When did the Citizen have a lead that said, "Be afraid. Be very afraid"? I checked the archives for 10 years and could find this expression used just twice -- once in a headline, once in a lead paragraph -- and both were ironic references by columnists. If it was longer than 10 years ago, I salute your memory but question the relevance.

Anonymous said...

The first wave of the Spanish flu (1918) was relatively mild. It was the second wave that killed.

Anonymous said...

Still waiting for you to come up with a date for the Citizen article with the "be very afraid" lead.

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