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The boys who cried flu

What is the worst case scenario for swine flu cases in the United States? About 1,700.

This is not a pandemic, and the ballet of institutional panic in government combined irresponsible media coverage over the last few days has been instrumental in ticking public health as another area where contemporary alarmism, fanned by governments, signposts higher mortality when a crisis finally arrives.

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19 comments to The boys who cried flu

  • cirby

    Their computer simulation, while interesting, has at least one glaring flaw.

    Their initial assumption. The current number they start with is about 100… and that’s certainly too low, since that’s only the lab-confirmed ones we know about. There’s probably ten times that many people infected already who aren’t showing symptoms – or who had the disease and didn’t say anything about it.

    My bet is that the real-world cases in the US currently number over 1000, and that we’re going to have 20,000 or more by the end of this month. The other thing is that no, it’s not going to be that bad, since the strain that’s going around here seems to be a fairly mild sort, and most folks will recover quickly – and go out among the populace while still slightly contagious…

  • Laird

    Another point made by the article:

    “Remember — that’s exponential growth, which means slow at the beginning and then very fast,” Brockmann said. “If you run the worst-case scenario for four months, we’re at a very different number.”

    Don’t get me wrong: I believe what we are witnessing is orchestrated hysteria, a fine and welcome distraction for an incompetent administration and a sycophantic popular press. I am not the least bit worried about a pandemic. But this article doesn’t give me any useful ammunition when arguing with the gullible.

  • Indeed. The moment I see the words “computer model/simulaion”, I think – you guessed it: Gorebul Warming. Only unlike that one, this may be the case of unjustified optimism. I think that just as with GW, only time will tell. And in any case as things stand now, there is no way that I am likely to stay at home or go out wearing a mask. Or buy a Prius, for that matter.

  • Robin Goodfellow

    “Swine flu” is a great example of how memorable branding and excessive media hype can create a false sense of reality. Is swine flu more contagious, more dangerous, or less treatable than other common flu strains? Not especially, as far as I can determine. Yet people are throwing around terms like “pandemic” (which has wildly differing definitions depending on the source) to describe swine-flu. Meanwhile, plain, ordinary flu and other diseases are still doing just fine infecting and killing far more people than swine-flu will ever likely infect.

  • George Atkisson

    “Never let a good crisis go to waste”

    I doubt the U.S. administration wanted an epidemic, but I’m sure that those pushing for Universal Health Care were rubbing their hands with something approaching glee at the chance for Government to rush to the rescue and prove the need for increased “oversight and control”.

    Therefore, there has been no effort to calm people down and explain the real risks (See Biden).

  • Notably, the only person I’ve met who’s worried about this was a Chinese colleague. I think they have a different perspective on the likelihood of apocalyptic diseases. This will make interesting office chit chat a few months from now.

    I’m only worried about expensive trips to California being banned for silly reasons and I fear science has nothing to offer to prevent that from happening. Panic is panic.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    What we seem to have here is a panpanic.

  • Tim

    Given my location in the US and proximity to the Mexico-US border, I can tell you this figure of 1700 cases in 5 weeks doesn’t pass the laugh test. There are probably near that many in this state alone.

    Do I think it will be any worse than regular flu? Not likely. But given how the delay in lab results and the decisions being made to test – or not to test, more frequently – means that relying on WHO “confirmed case” counts is a waste of time.

    Easy to sit there in London and point to numbers being put out by WHO about a situation and place that neither of you are in at the moment, but maybe not all that effective…

    It doesn’t help that a number of different groups seem to be trying to make it sound worse than it is, and others to make it sound better than it is.

  • Paul

    See if you can name the chairman (from 1997 to 2001) of Gilead Sciences, the company that owns the
    rights to Tamiflu. This is the drug every government agency wants to stockpile and then give out
    like candy to save us from this nonexistent threat.

    The former chairman just happens to be Donald Rumsfeld.

    ’nuff said!

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Paul at May 2, 2009 11:22 AM:

    The former chairman just happens to be Donald Rumsfeld.

    Sorry, but so what? Are you suggesting that Rumsfeld – fired by Bush in 2006 – is pulling strings in, or getting favors from, the present government? It seems unlikely.

  • White folks always said that there will be a black president when pigs fly. Well now, only a 100 days after a black president is in office, guess what? Pigs flu!

  • Paul

    Personfromporlock wrote:

    “Sorry, but so what? Are you suggesting that Rumsfeld – fired by Bush in 2006 – is pulling strings in, or getting favors from, the present government? It seems unlikely.”

    No need to apologise, if you trust politicians fine.
    I don’t.

  • JS

    A good panic always gets your funding increased.

  • kentuckyliz

    OK, but how did the scaremongerers go to Mexico and kill all those people?


    its all bullcrap. I’m so sick of the manipulation of the world population by a few powerful people and their cronies. This will only stop when people of this world decide they have had enough. Unfortunately, the majority of the population trusts their governments, and accept every word from their vile mouth.

    Have you guys seen the article below. What did I tell youlast week??? This is being used to scare people INTO BUYING ALL SORTS OF CRAP. Yes, the gov has found a way to stimulate the economy. Through fear and intimidation. AGAIN.

    ‘Stockpile but don’t panic’, Australians told

    * Email to friend
    * Print
    * Enlarge text

    01 May 2009 | 06:39:17 AM | Source: SBS staff with agencies

    Australians should be stockpiling enough supplies to last two weeks on the back of an increase in the swine flu alert level, according to a federal government pandemic plan.


    Don’t panic yet …. just stock up

    * Julia Medew
    * May 1, 2009

    AUSTRALIANS could soon be asked to stock their pantries with food and water and prepare for an emergency, according to the Federal Government’s pandemic flu plan.

    A manual outlining Australia’s response says that when the World Health Organisation moves to phase five, which it did yesterday, Australia will be in its “delay phase”.


    WHERE’S THE PROOF TO RAISE THE ALERT LEVEL TO 5??? A few hundred cases in the US?? No americans deaths you say??



    Turns out this blog was right! The admission by the feds that now 14 of the top 19 banks must raise capital is a defacto admission they were technically insolvent just as our original report stated. Vindication is sweet.

  • Are you suggesting that Rumsfeld – fired by Bush in 2006 – is pulling strings in, or getting favors from, the present government? It seems unlikely.

    So, in which of the previous 100 or so days of Obama’s presidency did he rewrite this contingency plan? I had a quick Google for US federal Government plans and they date from oh look 2000 to 2006.

    I’m not keen on conspiracy theories but the positive coverage for this drug at the moment is noticeable for its quantity and one-sidedness. Though its not hard to find the odd article expressing similar concerns. So to find out there is a high level connection is definitely interesting, even if its only a US connection.

  • RAB

    Nice one Alisa!

    I am off to Turkey for a couple of weeks on monday, and although a teensy bit worried about crowded airports and such, I would like to know it the Airlines are going to be doing their bit by upping the circulation of air in the planes back to the level it was when you were allowed to smoke on them.

    I’m betting zip, nada, nothing.

  • 3333333

    It is starting to become evident that the testing procedures that have been used in the last couple of weeks may be flawed; it appears patients are being screened for flu in general, then the positives are being sent to labs to verify whether or not they have the new flu, with a test specifically for that virus.

    You can probably tell where I am going with this –

  • Laird

    Actually, 3333333, I can’t tell where you are going with this. If the current procedure is as you describe (a general screening for flu, followed by a more specific test for those who tested positive on the first pass) seems a very logical approach, far more logical that testing every single patient for this specific virus (which seems to be the approach you are advocating). Please explain why you think the current approach (as you outlined it) is flawed. Or, if I have misunderstood you, please clarify your statement.