Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Much ado about swine flu

Well, mark another successful prognostication by yours truly: Back on November 6 I correctly predicted that Barack Obama would likely have to manage a pandemic at some point during his presidency. Little did I realize that it would happen so quickly, arriving at the 100 day mark of his administration.

But thankfully it is far less severe than what I had imagined (assuming, of course, that there won't be another). Yes, the swine flu is now poised to sweep through the human population, but it's a relatively mild bit of nastiness. The media, I believe, is largely responsible for overhyping the situation.

It's worth noting that on any given day about 100 Americans and a dozen Canadians die from the regular flu. Those who die from it are typically the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions. At the time of this writing it's largely unclear as to how many people have died from the swine flu in total. Some reports say over 150, while others claim no more than 7. It's clear that this ain't ebola.

Where there should be concern, however, is that the swine flu, due to its epidemic rate of infection, is set to hit more people than the usual strain. This will undoubtedly result in more deaths than usual, so in this sense it's a serious problem. But as for a the apocalypticism that's being perpetuated right now, let's not get carried away.

Now, that said, I'm also concerned that the strain will have a heightened chance of genetic mutation due to the dramatic increase in its propagation rate. This is a concern because it could quickly evolve (either alone or in conjunction with another virus) as something far, far worse. It's for this reason that the WHO and other institutions (including world governments) should keep a close eye on this bug and the situation.

Lastly, to all the conspiracists who claim that this is a man-made virus meant to revitalize the economy, grab a life and lose the paranoia.

[Be sure to read Michael Anissimov's take on the matter: "Following the flu and catastrophic risk in general"]

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