I think Swine Flu actually isn't that big of a deal. about a hundred times more people have died this past season of regular flu than swine, so there's some conspiracy people out there saying it's just a media scare to push an expensive vaccine. Far be it from me to litter the forum with conspiracy theories, but it makes you think when you look at the numbers.
Deaths be swine flu this year: 165
Deaths by regular flu this year: over 13,000
A word about
your figures. They are for the USA only (and as of today, total reported swine flu deaths are 273). In the past 10 years, the average annual number of deaths in the USA from flu has been 36,000. Swine flu is hitting the southern hemisphere pretty hard right now because it's winter there. When the northern hemisphere winter arrives, it will be interesting to see what the figures are like.
A friend of mine (a doctor no less) was the first case of swine flu here in Taiwan, so I've got some useful feedback from him. For him, it was no worse than a bad cold, and he's age 53. We've had no deaths here yet, but then we've had very few reported cases. It's likely that the majority of the people who catch the flu don't report it - they stay home, and recover. That's probably even more so in the USA where health care is so expensive and many are uninsured.
The UK is reporting a very high number of cases, but that could just be the result of better detection and reporting. It's summer there, so it seems weird that they'd be having much problem.
Flu tends to grow more virulent as the pandemic progresses, so those who get it early are lucky - I actually wish I could catch swine flu now. Once you've had it, you gain some immunity, so even if you catch it a second time you aren't likely to suffer much - it's kind of like a stealth vaccination.
H1N1 (the official name for "swine flu") is distantly related to the 1918 flu that killed over 50 million people worldwide. Fortunately, it is VERY distantly related. No one is predicting it will be as bad as 1918. The US CDC (Center for Disease Control) has labeled H1N1 a "category 2" flu. A category 2 pandemic has the following characteristics:
* Case fatality ratio of 0.1 percent to less than 0.5 percent.
* Between 90,000 and 450,000 deaths in the U.S. (compared with estimated 36,000 deaths during a typical influenza season).
* Excess death rate of between 30 to less than 150 per 100,000 people.
* Illness rate of between 20 and 40 percent.
* Similar to 1957 pandemic.
By comparison, 1918 was category 5.
The one worrisome trait of H1N1 is that if you've got a very good and active immune system, you might be in greater danger of suffering from a cytokine storm:
So ironically, those with a weakened immune system may be in less danger. But that's not guaranteed, and I certainly wouldn't recommend that anyone should take Immuran just to fight swine flu! Anti-inflammatory drugs, on the other hand, might actually help, since a cytokine storm creates severe inflammation in the lungs.
Hopefully, we will have a vaccine available before the northern hemisphere winter arrives.
In the meantime, it just might
be useful to get vaccinated against pneumonia. The vaccine is called Pneumovax. It will not prevent swine flu, or even reduce the symptoms. It will reduce your chances of catching bacterial pneumonia as a complication (there is evidence that this happened in 1918). You can, however, still catch viral pneumonia. Three years ago I caught bacterial pneumonia while I was in the hospital recovering from a bowel resection - it was the pneumonia that nearly killed me. Since then, I've been vaccinated, and hopefully that will do me some good if/when I catch swine flu.
It's not good to be an alarmist about
swine flu, but it's not totally wise to play it down either. We are in the very early stages of this pandemic. It could turn out to be much ado about
nothing. Let us hope so. I am not particularly worried. Having survived three bowel resections and lots of Crohn's illness in between, swine flu looks like a piece of cake.
Crohn's since 1988