Thursday, April 30, 2009
The CDC reports that in a normal year, approximately 36,000 Americans die from complications due to the flu. 200,000 Americans are hospitalized because of the flu, and in a normal year 5-20% of Americans get the flu. That means 15 million - 60 million Americans get the flu every year.
So far this year, 1 American has died from the swine flu. There are less than 500 cases nationwide. If one assumes that 200,000 people will get the normal flu this year, then there are 550 new cases every day. Why isn't the WHO declaring a Phase 5 alert for that?!
Yglesias thinks we're all panicking over nothing, but I'll go further: I think we are panicking over less than nothing. Why? Well, evolution, of course. Reports of the symptoms of swine flu are that it is actually less severe than normal flu. This makes sense, if you read my post about evolution pushing highly infectious diseases towards harmlessness. In order for a virus to circulate well, it must not kill its host too quickly. Therefore, viral strains that are less harmful tend to be more infectious. This is what appears to be happening with the current swine flu strain. It is less harmful, but much more infectious, than normal human flu.
Posted by Alex Waller at 7:50 AM