Monday, May 11, 2009

Swine Flu and the Pandemic of 1957

Well now we know what the new H1N1 flu virus is probably going resemble. Not the savage mass murderer of 1918. The far more gentle killer of 1957.

The swine flu strain that has sickened people in 30 countries rivals the severity of the 1957 “Asian flu” pandemic that killed 2 million people, scientists said.

But a killer nonetheless.

The virus is more contagious than seasonal flu, the Geneva-based WHO said yesterday. A “moderate” pandemic like the 1957 Asian flu could kill 14.2 million people and shave 2 percent from the global economy in the first year, the World Bank said in October.

Which makes what this Canadian doctor says ring a little hollow.

....The media must be more critical. How many pandemic false alarms do we need (remember "bird flu" -- the last great threat) before reporters start asking tough questions? How many times do the voices of catastrophe need to be wrong before we doubt their message?

Because a pandemic on the scale of 1957 in a more crowded world where more than a billion people go hungry, is nothing to sneeze at.

And what if the second wave of the pandemic is more deadly than the first ? And if you don't warn people about what might happen, how can you get them to change their behaviour?

Or prepare them for a worst case scary as this one.

This is the scenario that has some scientists worried. The two viruses meet — possibly in Asia, where bird flu is endemic — and combine into a new bug that is both highly contagious and lethal and can spread around the world.

The good news is that when lethal viruses mutate to become more contagious they lose a lot of their killing power. The bad news is that even if this virus doesn't mutate into something deadly, it could still infect billions people so we can't underestimate what it might do.

"This H1N1 hasn't been overblown. It's a puppy, it's an infant, and it's growing....

This virus has got the whole human population in the world to breed in — it's just happened. What we have to do is to watch it, and it may become a wimp and disappear, or it may become nasty."

You know... no matter what that doctor says I think I'm going to keep washing my hands a lot. And opening doors with my elbows.

Because better too prepared than not prepared enough eh?

And besides ....I did a little research and found out that back in 1957 they were also hoping for the best. Wearing suits and ties to rock concerts.

But preparing for the worst.....

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