Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu isn't even as deadly as the normal flu

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.



Anonymous said...

My fear with universal health care is that the government has proven itself to be inefficient at running a unniversal program that applies to us all already. It is called the public school system.

Universal health care, if ran like the system would solve your problem, but create another. Around the 1970's according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the idea that quantity of teachers was much more important that quality of teachers.

This is not an attack that all teachers aren't good, some are, some are exceptional. I don't want to offend TAE with this generalization. The point is that the money is now less and probably some really good teachers move on to other careers that pay more. Also, some people who aren't good enough to be teachers, are because the spots are available.

What would life be like if doctors were allowed to become this way? The current school system shows that in poor areas, there would still be shortages of doctors, especially good ones, where they are probably needed the most.

B-I-L said...

a doctor's point of view