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WHO Declares Pandemic Imminent
April 29, 2009 1:55 PM   Subscribe

The World Health Organization, which had recently warned of the danger of swine flu, has now raised the pandemic threat level to 5, indicating a pandemic is "imminent". The WHO chief was quoted as saying "all of humanity" is threatened by the virus
posted by crayz (337 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Christ, that can't be good.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:57 PM on April 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


via the BBC / etc:

Mexico: 152 suspected deaths | 20 confirmed cases
US: [1 death] | 64 confirmed cases
Canada: 6 confirmed cases
New Zealand: 3 confirmed cases
UK: 5 confirmed cases
Spain: 2 confirmed cases
Israel: 2 confirmed cases

Countries with suspected cases: Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, Australia, and South Korea, Denmark, Sweden, Greece, the Czech Republic, Germany and Italy
posted by crayz at 1:59 PM on April 29, 2009


For updates, also here.
For preparedness.
For Lulz.
posted by The White Hat at 2:00 PM on April 29, 2009 [14 favorites]


Well now, this might make Stephen King a prophet!
posted by PuppyCat at 2:02 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Isn't this automatic once human to human transfer occurs in more than one country?
posted by fullerine at 2:02 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pork producers are unhappy about name, and want to call it "North American Flu", despite that that it seems it may have originated at a specific factory hog farm
posted by delmoi at 2:03 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Predicted by Science magazine six years ago.

And still hardly anyone reporting on Smithfield Farms being a possible cause of it.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:03 PM on April 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Phase descriptions and graphics, stating that Phase 5 is characterized by human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region. While most countries will not be affected at this stage, the declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:04 PM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Over 8,000 cases of SARS and 774 deaths. And most of us are still here.
posted by GuyZero at 2:04 PM on April 29, 2009 [16 favorites]


Yeah, I'm starting to find this all a bit scary. I go on vacation to Bulgaria next week (where they don't have any reported cases of H1N1 yet, but...) and I hate the thought of languishing with this in a hotel room thousands of miles from home, alternating between coughing fits and oinking. Luckily, I have tasty, tasty Tamiflu to bring with me.

I do love this, though. The internets will pull us through this with lolcattery!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:04 PM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


*runs around in circles compulsively washing hands*
posted by From Bklyn at 2:05 PM on April 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


THE SKY IS FALLING!
posted by dersins at 2:05 PM on April 29, 2009


So, how much should I be freaking out right now?
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:05 PM on April 29, 2009


Full WHO statement. I think the important part of it is:
On the positive side, the world is better prepared for an influenza pandemic than at any time in history.

Preparedness measures undertaken because of the threat from H5N1 avian influenza were an investment, and we are now benefitting from this investment.

For the first time in history, we can track the evolution of a pandemic in real-time.

I thank countries who are making the results of their investigations publicly available. This helps us understand the disease.

...

It is possible that the full clinical spectrum of this disease goes from mild illness to severe disease. We need to continue to monitor the evolution of the situation to get the specific information and data we need to answer this question.

From past experience, we also know that influenza may cause mild disease in affluent countries, but more severe disease, with higher mortality, in developing countries.

No matter what the situation is, the international community should treat this as a window of opportunity to ramp up preparedness and response.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:06 PM on April 29, 2009 [11 favorites]


Aren't there like four separate drugs available to treat swine flu?
posted by ben242 at 2:06 PM on April 29, 2009


I closed the site and it's now too busy to get back in, so I can't quote her exactly, but just to clarify, the WHO chief's actual words were something along the lines of "After all, in a pandemic, all of humanity is threatened." (in the context of everyone having to work together to defeat the flu) which feels somewhat less dire than saying directly that she felt that "all of humanity" was threatened by this particular virus.
posted by cider at 2:06 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fortunately for me, I always wear protection when I'm intimate with new pigs.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:06 PM on April 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


Well now, this might make Stephen King a prophet!
posted by PuppyCat at 2:02 PM on April 29

Here's the future...
posted by 445supermag at 2:06 PM on April 29, 2009


A google mapping of the outbreak.
posted by forforf at 2:07 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


"All of humanity" is threatened by the regular flu too.
posted by smackfu at 2:07 PM on April 29, 2009 [28 favorites]


everyone is pigging out on fear these days.
posted by the aloha at 2:07 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is this something where I'd have to be part of "all of humanity" to care about? FLAGGED AS PANDEMICFILTER SHOW ME MORE LINKS TO DOGS PEEING AND CAR CRASHES.
posted by Damn That Television at 2:07 PM on April 29, 2009


Well now, this might make Stephen King a prophet!

I've spent all day watching various new conferences on the flu, and I think in every one there's been a reported in the background coughing or sneezing. Yeah... you just can't help but think of Captain Trips.

As for myself, I took a day off work because I feel a little under the weather. But just a little! I'm not going to bother the doctors yet because I've heard the guidelines many, many times and I think I fit only 1, maybe 2, of the criteria.
posted by sbutler at 2:08 PM on April 29, 2009


So, serious question: what happens if I get swine flu? I live in Los Angeles, so I suppose it's possible.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:08 PM on April 29, 2009


If this is bad enough, maybe it could make it easier to get single payer, universal health care in this country.
posted by stavrogin at 2:08 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


13 confirmed cases in Canada, all mild.

Look, this is something to be taken seriously, as flu is always a tricky disease that kills a substantial number of people every year, but I'm not setting my hair on fire just yet. It sounds as if WHO and national governments are (mostly) doing the right thing (slaughtering every pig in your country, Egypt? Seriously?), so let's see where things go.

Links I posted in the other thread:

- Jim MacDonald's sensible advice at Making Light
- Swine flu and information hygiene
- How false rumors can cost lives
posted by maudlin at 2:08 PM on April 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


"all of humanity" is threatened by the virus

Bad news: Cheney outlives us all
Good news: The ants will feast on him
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:10 PM on April 29, 2009 [14 favorites]


And still hardly anyone reporting on Smithfield Farms being a possible cause of it.

If by "hardly anyone" you mean CNN, then yes.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:11 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


And still hardly anyone reporting on Smithfield Farms being a possible cause of it.

Maybe because there's not enough info yet to determine the origin of this strain, and it would be journalistically irresponsible to suggest otherwise?

Also, and I hate to link to boing boing twice in one comment, but just to dial down the panic a little:

"So, even if we had a repeat of the 1918 flu, the chances were seven out of 10 that you wouldn't catch it and if you did, the odds were better than nine out of 10 that you'd survive."
posted by danny the boy at 2:11 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


So, serious question: what happens if I get swine flu? I live in Los Angeles, so I suppose it's possible.

You go to the doctor? Is this a trick question?
posted by desjardins at 2:11 PM on April 29, 2009


would it help if we immediately ate all pigs?
posted by snofoam at 2:12 PM on April 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


I agree, maudlin. If you read WHO's actual statement, they're not saying we should be running for the bunkers. They're saying, yeah, time to step it up. Get out the vaccines, inform, track and screen. It's a flu, and developing nations will be hardest hit, but we can gather the organization and resources to beat this.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:13 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Was the link to the Rocky Mount Telegram article really necessary?
GENEVA — WHO chief Margaret Chan says "it really is all of humanity that is under threat in a pandemic."
That's all there is! Am I missing something? Is the Associated Press missing something? Are we all going to die? Is this FPP just shameless spamming?
posted by surrendering monkey at 2:13 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


As I said in another thread:

The world, and America in particular, is so driven by fear of everything that a genuine threat will send us absolutely insane with terror, and things will all but shut down until the disease passes.

There are times when the quaking mass of fear that comprises modern America has its uses, and this is one of them. It's unlikely to cause the U.S. that much REAL damage because Americans are pussies.

Other nations may suffer more, but the US will barely be touched, quivering at home with the blinds drawn and the lights off.
posted by Malor at 2:13 PM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


In other news, The Who was recently spreading throughout Australia and New Zealand. Fevers were mild at best, primarily localized to those who had some form of prior infection.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:14 PM on April 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


That's all there is! Am I missing something? Is the Associated Press missing something? Are we all going to die? Is this FPP just shameless spamming?

See: >
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:15 PM on April 29, 2009


So, serious question: what happens if I get swine flu? I live in Los Angeles, so I suppose it's possible.

Jesus. Cover your mouth when you comment.
posted by gman at 2:15 PM on April 29, 2009 [16 favorites]


The amount of panic surrounding this virus seems disproportionate to the stats so far. A little perspective: according to the CDC, an average of 36,000 people have died each year (1993-2003) in the United States due to complications from your average, run-of-the-mill influenza. As of this morning, there have been 91 reported cases of swine flu in the US. There has also been one death, but as I understand it, that was a Mexican citizen who flew to Houston for treatment.

This post, like nearly all the media surrounding this "outbreak," is misleading. The quote in the third link is clearly directed at pandemics in general, not this specific virus. The statement released by Margaret Chan today reads as a statement of "let's be prepared for anything" and not as a dire statement of imminent doom (which is what the media seems to be portraying this as). All of the cases that I've read about north of the US-Mexico border have been mild (example. Money quote: "The ill Marine is being treated as an outpatient at the base and will remain isolated at his barracks." Emphasis mine)

I am currently a graduate student in a Howard Hughes Medical Institute lab at a well-known university working for a PI whose research is built on influenza. I'm not saying that there is NO danger from this virus, but the coverage that it's getting is a little out of hand. The part of this outbreak that worries me the most is the fact that there are genetic elements from three species present in the viral genome (human, avian, and porcine). That level of genetic mixing may indicate that this particular virus is better at changing out parts of its genome and could thus become more virulent with further mutations. But at present the clinical severity of the disease just does not seem to justify the near-panic. I think we're all more likely to die from a pandemic of 24hr news cycles.
posted by Osrinith at 2:17 PM on April 29, 2009 [55 favorites]


You go to the doctor?

Well duh, but which doctor?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:17 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Swine Flu panic was all the rage back in the 1970s, too, when President Ford embarked on an ambitious Swine Flu vaccination program that backfired, causing "hundreds of Americans... [to be] killed or seriously injured by the inoculation the government gave them to stave off the virus."

But in more recent Swine Flu news, although there hasn't been a single confirmed case in that country yet, Egypt has decided the best solution is to wipe all pigs off the face of the earth (or at least, all the pigs inhabiting that little patch of earth under Egyptian sovereignty).

Humanity, you always deliver exactly what I expect! Pure comic gold! I'm laughing so hard over here I'm crying a little at the same time.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:18 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wager most of the people panicking about swine fu in the US don't even have passports and have never met a Mexican.
posted by GuyZero at 2:18 PM on April 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well duh, but which doctor?

No. My experience is you can't trust those.
posted by gman at 2:19 PM on April 29, 2009 [16 favorites]


Well duh, but which doctor?

He'll tell you what to do.
posted by GuyZero at 2:19 PM on April 29, 2009 [12 favorites]


And from the linked CNN article regarding the potential patient zero:

"His mother blamed a huge pig farm in the neighborhood for the virus.

Officials have conducted tests at the farm owned by U.S. company Smithfield Foods, and those tests came back negative."


So his mom blames the nearby pig farm, but the tests were negative.

I mean, yeah factory farming sucks and it basically bad for people and animals, but anyone who, right now, claims they know the specific origins of the swine flu has an agenda that is not backed by evidence.
posted by danny the boy at 2:20 PM on April 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


So, even if we had a repeat of the 1918 flu, the chances were seven out of 10 that you wouldn't catch it and if you did, the odds were better than nine out of 10 that you'd survive.

YOUR NOT HELPING!!!1!
posted by LordSludge at 2:20 PM on April 29, 2009


I'm concerned. Does it mean I'm sick when my snout is dry, or wet?
posted by Elmore at 2:22 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Aren't there like four separate drugs available to treat swine flu?

Yes, and it seems like most of the cases in the West have been mild and easily treated with medical/hospital care. It's probable that most of us (Westerners, that is) don't have to worry too much, or at least not more than "normal" flu. But the virus is spreading to places like Colombia and Brasil, where health care just isn't as great. I suppose the same could go for uninsured people in the US who need to avoid medical bills like, um, the plague.

I guess it's never a good time to be poor.
posted by Sova at 2:23 PM on April 29, 2009


As for myself, I took a day off work because I feel a little under the weather. But just a little!

I think Metafilter's only option is clear: Swift banning of sbutler in order to quarantine his account. Immediately shut down any active posts or questions he's made. Rub down the Metafilter servers with Purelle. Boil the accounts of anyone who has posted in the same thread as sbutler for at least 5 minutes.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:23 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's OK, I just talked to my vet. I'm fine.
posted by Elmore at 2:23 PM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I always go to the Rocky Mount Telegram for my breaking pandemic news (wtf?).
posted by benzenedream at 2:24 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


On the upside, it sounds like pork products are going to be a bit cheaper for a while. Then, of course, there will be a shortage.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 2:25 PM on April 29, 2009


What's the word from Madagascar?
posted by jquinby at 2:25 PM on April 29, 2009 [14 favorites]


I think Metafilter's only option is clear: Swift banning of sbutler in order to quarantine his account.

Good thing all of my sock puppets are feeling fine!
posted by sbutler at 2:27 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


You go to the doctor? Is this a trick question?

Spoken like someone with health insurance.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:27 PM on April 29, 2009 [16 favorites]


Rub down the Metafilter servers with Purelle.

I think this is why cortex was hired.
posted by desjardins at 2:27 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


most of the people panicking about swine fu in the US

Swine fu.
posted by dersins at 2:28 PM on April 29, 2009


I'm not saying that there is NO danger from this virus, but the coverage that it's getting is a little out of hand.

Out of hand... like a FOX!

Now that the house has just approved an historic budget resolution with massive amounts of new funding for health and medical services, isn't this the perfect time for a little reminder of just what an important role the CDC plays in keeping us safe from disease outbreaks? (They really do, BTW...)
posted by saulgoodman at 2:28 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Spoken like someone with health insurance.

Sorry, that was snarkier than I intended. But I would never go to the doctor just because I had the regular flu, because I don't have health insurance.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:29 PM on April 29, 2009


For those of you wondering, I posted the link to Rocky Mountain News simply because I found it covering the statement on Google News. The WHO site has been sporadically down due to traffic, which is why I didn't link directly to their statement
posted by crayz at 2:29 PM on April 29, 2009


When the rioting starts, be sure to frequent the jewelry stores. Pearls before swine, and all.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:30 PM on April 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


Thanks, Osrinith. The sheer level of panic surrounding this thing is really baffling. The selective quoting from the AP sure as hell doesn't help.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:30 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


jquimby, I do not think this is the time to move it, move it. But I could be wrong.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:30 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


the question of course is: can it get to madagascar before they close the borders?
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:30 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


You go to the doctor?

Well duh, but which doctor?


A veterinarian?
posted by pardonyou? at 2:32 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The sheer level of panic surrounding this thing is really baffling

It hasn't quite escalated to y2k bug levels yet though, thankfully.
posted by Elmore at 2:32 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The WHO site has been sporadically down due to traffic, which is why I didn't link directly to their statement

Googling "WHO swine flu statement" will turn up other sources.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:33 PM on April 29, 2009


It hasn't quite escalated to y2k bug levels yet though, thankfully.

The Y2K bug caused actual problems. Unlike the flu.
posted by GuyZero at 2:33 PM on April 29, 2009


The WHO chief was quoted as saying "all of humanity" is threatened by the virus

Oh fuck fuck fuckity fuck. Can't ONE universe not have the zombie virus? Seriously. I just want one nice, normal, quiet little alternate dimension. Is that too much to ask? But no, every time I get settled some alien deathray blows up half of D.C or a huge slime mold enslaves humanity, or robot Hitlers roam the land. It's like you people don't want to see the 30th century! It's cool! Trust me!

But if I have to blow off my best friend's head while he and a horde of unhead chase me across to nightmarish cityscape, AGAIN, then I'm just calling it quits and shacking up in the Sideways Dimension Of Infinite Nap Time.
posted by The Whelk at 2:34 PM on April 29, 2009 [16 favorites]


And still hardly anyone reporting on Smithfield Farms being a possible cause of it.

I've seen the BBC and CNN both report on this, and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization is sending a team to investigate.
posted by homunculus at 2:35 PM on April 29, 2009


The sheer level of panic surrounding this thing is really baffling.

I think the fever is actually spread by journalists, whose mere words carry the infection far and wide. If we simply inoculate the journalists with a relative truth serum, we'll be fine.

See, they're telling the truth, but the numbers mean nothing out of context. Relate the statistics to other, more common infections, and the fever will die down.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:35 PM on April 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Rub down the Metafilter servers with Purelle.

I think this is why cortex was hired.


But who's going to rub down cortex?
posted by homunculus at 2:36 PM on April 29, 2009


danny the boy: "Officials have conducted tests at the farm owned by U.S. company Smithfield Foods, and those tests came back negative."

"Officials"? Like... traffic cops? Official sponsors of Telemundo's coverage of the Mexico Football League?
posted by Joe Beese at 2:38 PM on April 29, 2009


Well I feel silly. The two links are posted are to WHO swine flu statements regarding it going from 3 to 4; not 4 to 5. My apologies.

That said, I haven't been having any problems getting the WHO statement off their site, but if anyone else is, I've uploaded a text file of it here.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:39 PM on April 29, 2009


"Officials"? Like... traffic cops? Official sponsors of Telemundo's coverage of the Mexico Football League?

Christ on the Cross, Joe, I generally like you, but you have gone completely off the deep end on this. Please step away from the world until you resume your meds.
posted by GuyZero at 2:41 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


So, even if we had a repeat of the 1918 flu, the chances were seven out of 10 that you wouldn't catch it and if you did, the odds were better than nine out of 10 that you'd survive.

Taking those exact same numbers though, you can also say that one out of every 153 people in the United States died due to the epidemic [675,000 deaths from a 1918 population of 103,208,000] or that with that same 0.654% mortality rate today 1,988,608 Americans would die [304,059,724 current pop.] I'm not saying that the two epidemics are in any way comparable, and I'm not trying to scaremonger. I'd just like to point out that scary-stats really can be used both ways.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:42 PM on April 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


On the BBC news tonight it was pointed out the average winter flu outbreak will kill between 8-12 000 people in the UK and 1/2 million world wide (see also Osrinith up thread). Though that is mainly old people, with a pandemic it tends to the under 45s that are effective. But I'm still not exactly worried just yet.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:42 PM on April 29, 2009


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: Googling "WHO swine flu statement" will turn up other sources.

OK, sorry. I was looking to source the quote because a previous story with it was altered removing the quote and that was the top Google result for the quote itself. Shoulda used a different one
posted by crayz at 2:42 PM on April 29, 2009


But who's going to rub down cortex?

That's not in mathowie's budget.
posted by desjardins at 2:43 PM on April 29, 2009


I was looking to source the quote because a previous story with it was altered removing the quote and that was the top Google result for the quote itself.

You know I think that might be part of the problem - bad journalism. The article you posted is from the AP, by all accounts a respectable source, and yet they cherrypick this single quote from Chan's entire statement.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:46 PM on April 29, 2009


The Who was recently spreading throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Pete Townshend's lawyer has already filed an injunction against changing the name "swine flu" to "summertime blues". The kids will be alright; after inoculation they won't get fooled again, but the baby boomers may suffer from symptoms such as festering squeeze box and magic gush.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:47 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Unless this sucker mutates into a variant virulent enough to cause a cytokine storm or lie dormant enough to spread but kill quickly enough to deter medical aid, we will never again have anything close to the Spanish Flu pandemic that followed World War I. Even the last pandemic in the 60s killed only 35,000 in the United States (out of 1 million total).

So yes, world tracking ability and preparedness in most countries is high enough that we'll basically see this thing ravage third world countries and other areas with poor sanitation, education and inadequate medical facilities/supplies.
posted by linux at 2:50 PM on April 29, 2009


How do they determine if one has The Swine Flu? Blood test?
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:51 PM on April 29, 2009


but you have gone completely off the deep end on this.

I don't think it's unrealistic at all to raise questions about the effectiveness/possible corruption of Mexican government meat processing plant inspectors in a large-scale crisis that may have serious ramifications for a large business in the country.

It's actually kind of "off the deep end" to *not* have at least some question like that in mind right now. Rational thinking pretty much requires the possibility be kept in mind.
posted by mediareport at 2:51 PM on April 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


So... 153 deaths, only 1 of which is confirmed to be linked to the virus. And only 102 confirmed cases, spread out over seven countries. I suppose the the WHO needs to take this approach because it best to err on the side of caution, but really, if one washes one's hands immediately after making contact with others, shouldn't this really be a nonissue?
posted by eustacescrubb at 2:55 PM on April 29, 2009


No fewer than 800 people in the US alone die from the standard run-of-the-mill flu every week.

So far, outside of Mexico, this swine flu seems to have standard flu symptoms, without any higher death rates than your standard flu.

WHO is raising the alarm because it is spreading so much. Are they even looking at how lethal (or non-lethal) it is, or is it because they are not sure they know the whole story? Are they spreading panic ahead of informed facts or are they just being precautious?
posted by eye of newt at 2:56 PM on April 29, 2009


For Lulz.

At the centre of every lolmacro, there is a grain of truth.
posted by CKmtl at 2:56 PM on April 29, 2009


GuyZero: " Joe, I generally like you, but you have gone completely off the deep end on this."

Look, I agree that the media is inflaming unreasonable fears about this. Just this morning, I reminded Mrs. Beese that hundreds of thousands of people die in a normal year from influenza.

But as long as they're going to keep milking ratings from it, it seems to me like the least they could do is add a little more "Gee, how did this happen?" to the "ZOMG WE'RE ALL DEAD". That industrial pig farm that the scientists were warning about seems like a reasonable place to start.

And given the past "quality" of CNN's reporting, you'll have to excuse me for not taking the completely generic word "officials" at face value.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:58 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Swine Flu, Metafilter, and not one mention of bacon. Amazing.
posted by kozad at 2:58 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Y2K bug caused actual problems. Unlike the flu.

Lots of people have actually died from the swine flu. No one died from Y2K.

This is overblown but it is inevitable that there will one day be another flu pandemic that will kill millions. Perhaps this is it, probably it isn't, but getting nervous about it isn't that unreasonable.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:59 PM on April 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Journalists reported today that swine flu pandemic reporting quality went from 3 (inaccurate figures) to 4 (alarmist headlines), with a great probability for reaching 5 (criminal and demagogic sensationalism) before the end of the week. A return to level 2 (in-depth coverage) is expected in three to four months.
posted by surrendering monkey at 3:01 PM on April 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


Swine Flu, Metafilter, and not one mention of bacon. Amazing.

FTFY
posted by phatkitten at 3:01 PM on April 29, 2009


And how is this the best of the web?
posted by localhuman at 3:05 PM on April 29, 2009


That industrial pig farm that the scientists were warning about seems like a reasonable place to start.

Every disease comes from somewhere. We cannot simply stop doing everything because it might cause some new disease to break out. SARS came from wild civet cats. Should we stop handing all wild animals now too? Epidemiologists need to know where the disease came from, but for most people hand washing is about the extent of it. More inflamed hyperbole is only going to result in more ass-covering and not more transparency. Why assume that people are lying? The pork industry wants to see this thing cleaned up as much as anyone and I think throwing random accusations of corruption at Mexican government officials is somewhere between irresponsible and outright racist. Chicken and duck farms in Canada are killing flocks all the time because of avian flu and it's just not that big a deal. Britain burned hundreds of thousands of cows but nowadays I'd take their beef over American beef any day (ironically, because there is such a huge coverup via the non-testing regime of US cows for mad cow disease).

At any rate, swine flu represents noting new in terms of either spread rate, severity or the disease origin. You can panic when this gets bigger than SARS was.
posted by GuyZero at 3:07 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


But who's going to rub down cortex?

Probably the cerebrum.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:12 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Look, this is something to be taken seriously, as flu is always a tricky disease that kills a substantial number of people every year, but I'm not setting my hair on fire just yet.

Oooh! A new preventive measure! Should I still continue to wash my hands, or is flaming hair enough to keep me from catching this flu?
posted by rtha at 3:13 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Q. Professor, without knowing precisely what the danger is, would you say it's time for our viewers to crack each other's heads open and feast on the goo inside?

A. Yes, I would, Kent.
posted by gompa at 3:13 PM on April 29, 2009 [14 favorites]


Also,for those who dislike my tendency to use imperative sentences, feel free to panic or not at your discretion. It's just my opinion.
posted by GuyZero at 3:14 PM on April 29, 2009


Unless this sucker mutates into a variant virulent enough to cause a cytokine storm or lie dormant enough to spread but kill quickly enough to deter medical aid, we will never again have anything close to the Spanish Flu pandemic that followed World War I.

So... unless a flu variant mutates into a form like the one that caused the 1918-19 pandemic, we'll never see a pandemic like the 1918-19 one?

Wanna run that one by me again?

(Yes, I know that the cytokine storm hypothesis for the 1918-19 pandemic isn't proven, but it's still a viable explanation for its deadliness.)
posted by asterix at 3:15 PM on April 29, 2009


WHO Declares Pandemic Imminent

No they dont. Congratulations on being another god damned sheep.


So, how much should I be freaking out right now?
About as freaked out as you are a bout avian flu. or SARS. or killer bees. or mad cow disease. or any of the other myriad BS news stories "they" use to distract you from real stories.

Lots of people have actually died from the swine flu


Statements like this drive me crazy. 7 (SEVEN) PEOPLE HAVE DIED FROM SWINE FLU according to the WHO.

or even if you believe the fear mongerers 200. Worldwide. Talk to me when its 20,000 because

36,000 PEOPLE DIE FROM REGULAR FLU IN THE US EVERY YEAR.

Sorry, I know I know... "Drink your Kool-aid and shut up." Shutting up.
posted by ElmerFishpaw at 3:17 PM on April 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


WHO is raising the alarm because it is spreading so much. Are they even looking at how lethal (or non-lethal) it is, or is it because they are not sure they know the whole story?

Sure, there's fear mongering going on; we need to put things in context; etc etc. But it's also important to be honest about the science and risk. There are a couple of things that make me nervous about this:

1) It kills young helathy people. This is a common feature of real pandemics, and is interesting biology.

2) It's not uncommon for a bad pandemic to have a weak first wave. So "low death rates" now doesn't mean it won't get really bad.

3) I think there's a sample bias behind a lot of the "bad in mexico, weak here". I'm pretty sure we have much better monitoring and detection here, so we're seeing all cases, while in Mexico they may be seeing mostly the bad cases. And the sample sizes are very different. Suppose there was a 2% fatality rate both places - we'd barely have seen any here yet, and Mexico would have seen a pretty decent number.

So don't let the fear mongers rule you, but don't let the anti-fear-mongers kid you: the Spanish Flu was some Serious Bad Shit. This does have potential to get really bad.
posted by freebird at 3:17 PM on April 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


The wisdom of Jules.

Vincent: Want some bacon?
Jules: No man, I don't eat pork.
Vincent: Are you Jewish?
Jules: Nah, I ain't Jewish, I just don't dig on swine, that's all.
Vincent: Why not?
Jules: Pigs are filthy animals. I don't eat filthy animals.
Vincent: Bacon tastes gooood. Pork chops taste gooood.
Jules: Hey, sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I'd never know 'cause I wouldn't eat the filthy motherfucker. Pigs sleep and root in shit. That's a filthy animal. I ain't eat nothin' that ain't got enough sense enough to disregard its own feces.
Vincent: How about a dog? Dogs eats its own feces.
Jules: I don't eat dog either.
Vincent: Yeah, but do you consider a dog to be a filthy animal?
Jules: I wouldn't go so far as to call a dog filthy but they're definitely dirty. But, a dog's got personality. Personality goes a long way.
Vincent: Ah, so by that rationale, if a pig had a better personality, he would cease to be a filthy animal. Is that true?
Jules: Well we'd have to be talkin' about one charming motherfuckin' pig. I mean he'd have to be ten times more charmin' than that Arnold on Green Acres, you know what I'm sayin'?

posted by HumanComplex at 3:17 PM on April 29, 2009


On the BBC news tonight it was pointed out the average winter flu outbreak...
Depending somewhat on how many of the deaths in Mexico that are ultimately attributed to swine flu, the point here is that this wouldn't be an average flu outbreak, a point a startling number of people are missing.

Additionally, the number of people that are infected in Mexico is far higher, so the low number of deaths in countries with equally low numbers of infections thus far tells us bupkis. I'm not saying the sky is falling, but this "hey, flu's not that bad" and "wake me up when some rich people die" is equally knee-jerk nonsense.

You can panic when this gets bigger than SARS was.
I'd rather not panic at all. We're now one stage away from having a viral pandemic of a disease that we know far too little about to make reliable predictions as to its lethality. Panic and complacency are equally uncalled for.
posted by fightorflight at 3:18 PM on April 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


How do they determine if one has The Swine Flu? Blood test?

They have a cheek swab that a doctor's office can do. It takes three days for the results.
posted by Big_B at 3:20 PM on April 29, 2009


I am also bothered by the 'officials' word selection. I see it all the time in US news when talking about a foreign country. "An official", "the government", "a hospital", "a scientist", "the police".

If they are talking about the US they will mention the agency, institution and person by name.

If you read Spanish language news, you can find out the the officials are from the Secretaría de Salud del estado de Veracruz. José Angel Córdova, the federal Health Secretary is the one that said that only 1 of the 35 samples taken from sick people had H1N1-A, and none taken from the farm was positive.

James Wilson from Veractect (do your own googling, these people are hardcore and expensive) was brought in as a consultant to identify the cause of the illness, he presented his results on March 30. I could not figure out if Wilson was brought in by the government or by the farm. The CDC and the International Red Cross got a copy of the report, as did the states health authorities. The federal government was not alerted until May.

Whatever Wilson found out, the people were treated and recovered. They are poor people who mostly work in Mexico City during the week. In all the interviews I have read, the sick people were not told and did not ask what medicine they were given.

If you want to get all conspiracy theorist, the people from Las Glorias started getting sick in March. The Veracruz Health Secretary, José Angel Córdova, in April 2 admitted that about 30% of the people in Las Glorias had respiratory symptoms and a sanitary containment was enforced for a few days. When questioned about the possibility of an influenza epidemic, he said "It is not an epidemic, it is not influenza, we are fumigating in case of rodents, there are no mosquitoes there, we are trying to prevent another disease apart from this." I have no idea what "this" or the "another" diseases are. They were pretty sure by mid April that whatever it was, it had been contained.

On several Mexican news outlet the current theory seems to be that some kind of nasty flu was making the round in Las Glorias, not H1N1, and some kind of milder swine flu was present in the pig farm; then an outsider brought in a third kind of flu and infected a pig with it, then a super combo happened and fatality ensued. This is based on 2 points: 1- The CDC had detected at least 25 cases of swine flu in the US between 2005 and January 2009, including the current H1N1 subtype A. They already knew how to treat it, as it differs from most other swine flu. 2- Smithfield Foods owns pig farms all over the world, at least 8 in the Las Glorias area. They have consultants, contractors and management constantly travelling between their farms.

Finally, the Mexican co-owners of the Smithfield Foods pig operations are one of the biggest companies in the country, if you ever have Mexican coffee, it is a good bet it came from them. These people are powerful in Veracruz, among with the oil industry they basically own the government there.

Conspiracytheorize like a pig in mud.
posted by dirty lies at 3:20 PM on April 29, 2009 [20 favorites]


One of the blogs I follow is kept by a doctor; she joked that the Swine Flu outbreak is, in her opinion, probably going to be "The Brangelina of '09."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:22 PM on April 29, 2009


Talk to me when its 20,000

Do you people not understand the notion of an epidemic? Rate of spread vs. number of infected? By the time it's 20,000 it will be too late to do much about it. So if you want to stop bad epidemics, it's critical to identify them as they start.

There's fear mongering - and then there's exponential growth which is basic math. This spreads much more aggressively than things like Avian flu, so comparing absolute numbers is not very meaningful:

Over 8,000 cases of SARS and 774 deaths. And most of us are still here.

Sure, and far more die of car accidents. CAR ACCIDENTS AREN'T CONTAGIOUS.

Again, I totally agree it's silly to panic. But it's equally silly to ignore the science and pretend that because there have been false positives in the past this must be one too.
posted by freebird at 3:23 PM on April 29, 2009 [12 favorites]


BBC had a short story in 2000 about the history of flus, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has a US-focused timeline with more info. There's a more detailed description of the processes surrounding past influenza pandemics at this CDC EID site. From all this, I don't see how is it "inevitable" that there will be another mega-flu that kills millions. Possible, yes, but this isn't like an earthquake that's building along a fault line. And what does getting nervous do for the general public? Remind us to wash our hands and not cough on other people?
posted by filthy light thief at 3:23 PM on April 29, 2009


EmpressCallipygos: "the Swine Flu outbreak is, in her opinion, probably going to be "The Brangelina of '09.""

In other words... CONSTANTLY REPRODUCING??

Now I'm panicked.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:23 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


You go to the doctor?

Well duh, but which doctor?


The Tenth One.

Preferably with Martha as his companion.
posted by spinifex23 at 3:23 PM on April 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


ElmerFishPaw, do you know how many people catch regular flu in the US every year? Because without that you can't make any sort of meaningful comparison.

Interesting reading about the initial reaction to Spanish Flu too: it was derided and mocked as a scare not to be worried about, then it went quiet for a few months before coming back devastatingly.
posted by fightorflight at 3:23 PM on April 29, 2009


Serves me right for going on vacation for just a few days and just now hearing about this. The talking heads won't have that!
posted by hillabeans at 3:25 PM on April 29, 2009


if mediareport is defending a comment of mine

Jesus, dude, it's not about you.
posted by mediareport at 3:25 PM on April 29, 2009


I'm more worried about the effects of the reaction to the flu on the economy and society than on the flu itself.

Also, I'm worried about what various world governments (especially the U.S.) will try to get away with while we're all focused on the 24 hour flu coverage cycle on the news networks.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:25 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


How do they determine if one has The Swine Flu? Blood test?
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:51 PM on April 29 [+] [!]


Direct your attention once more to the wonderful resource that is the CDC! (The CDC's website really is a fantastic source of information on a wide variety of diseases.) A little explanation for those who are interested:

Rapid antigen test - this test is going to rely on the availability of previously cultivated antibodies specific for protein recognition sites (called "epitopes") on the surface of the viral envelope. There are three forms of Influenza virus: A (infects birds and some mammals), B (infecting humans and seals), and C (infecting humans and pigs). There are many rapid antigen kits that are sold to health care professionals that detect A and/or B (C is much less common).

Immunofluorescence - This test is also built upon the idea of antibody specificity. There are a couple of ways you can do this. The easiest is to have an antibody that has a fluorescent dye on the C-terminus of the heavy chain. Antibody binds virus, you shine light at it, the dye (if present) fluoresces. No virus (or different virus), and the specificity of the antibody means that you don't get a signal out.

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) - PCR is the gold standard for identifying exactly what strain of virus you have. However, it can take a while to be useful against a new virus because you have to have unique parts of the genome sequenced in order to design your primers. (Ho-boy this gets complicated fast) Basically what this means is that you have a test that is incredibly specific (because you're testing at the level of viruses genome and avoiding some of the sloppiness of protein-antibody interactions). One of the amazing things about science nowadays is how quickly you can do some of this stuff. Scientists have already begun depositing genomic sequences into the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID) database, which makes it much easier for other researchers to design more primers, get more accurate sequences, and really accurately nail this virus with an ID.
posted by Osrinith at 3:26 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


"So... unless a flu variant mutates into a form like the one that caused the 1918-19 pandemic, we'll never see a pandemic like the 1918-19 one?

Wanna run that one by me again?"

Sure. Unless this virus can spread quickly without visible detection and upon showing symptoms causes instant death, we shouldn't see anything as catastrophic as the 1918 pandemic. The last major pandemic was the Hong Kong flu, and even that only killed 35,000 people in the States though it killed one million worldwide.

Better sanitation, education and access to medical aid prevented that pandemic from devastating the US. The world forty years later on the whole is much better able to cope with the virulence of something like the Hong Kong flu. While this virus is spreading quickly, it isn't killing quickly. We can track it, we can minimize exposure and we can treat it quickly. If this becomes a major pandemic, it will be through human organizational failure and/or sudden mutation into something like the 1918 virus.
posted by linux at 3:26 PM on April 29, 2009


Well, I guess we're not talking about the economy any more.
posted by ob at 3:28 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Over 8,000 cases of SARS and 774 deaths. And most of us are still here.

Sure, and far more die of car accidents. CAR ACCIDENTS AREN'T CONTAGIOUS.


Uh, well, SARS was a global infection pandemic, so it seems reasonable to draw a parallel. SARS was probably a lot more contagious than swine flu and it was pretty deadly too. Plus they'd never dealt with a coronavirus like that before. The flu, which a tough bastard, is pretty well understood (certainly relative to how well SARS was understood when the outbreak occurred).

All I'm saying is that unless you're a public health worker or an epidemiologist this is pretty much an act of god. Good on governments for working hard to contain this disease. For the rest of us it's pretty much unimportant. If it's really worrying you I suggest praying for it to end because that's about the level of impact you're going to have.
posted by GuyZero at 3:30 PM on April 29, 2009


Dooooood, you're covered.

"If a swine or bird flu pandemic emerges -- and everyone seems to think that it is just a matter of when, not if --, there is simply no time for the usual bureaucratic process. With emergency government approval, we can legally access the huge supply of medical cannabis available in California to produce millions of life saving doses within a relatively short period of time."
posted by joaquim at 3:32 PM on April 29, 2009


ElmerFishPaw, do you know how many people catch regular flu in the US every year? Because without that you can't make any sort of meaningful comparison.

I do know that Air Force One just dive-bombed manhattan for no apparent reason. (photo op LOL)
Also that the govt is doing some unprecedented things economically that lots of people think they shouldnt.
Also that Condoleeza Rice and Nancy Pelosi lied about knowing that the US was committing war crimes.
Also that the US was just proven to have been committing WAR CRIMES.

No no. This is the REAL story. 5 hospitalized in the US and 5 dead world wide.

There are plenty of reasons to be certain of the smokescreeniness of this matest media campaign. Cant you see that?
posted by ElmerFishpaw at 3:36 PM on April 29, 2009


If this becomes a major pandemic, it will be through human organizational failure and/or sudden mutation into something like the 1918 virus.

Okay. You said we'd "never again" see anything like the 1918-19 pandemic... hence my confusion. Thanks for the clarification.
posted by asterix at 3:38 PM on April 29, 2009


Well, I guess we're not talking about the economy any more.

THink of the economy as Patient Zero.
posted by mannequito at 3:39 PM on April 29, 2009


15 days after the first SARS alert from the WHO there were 1408 cases in around 10 countries

We're on day 4/5 of swine flu
posted by crayz at 3:40 PM on April 29, 2009


Well, I guess we're not talking about the economy any more.
Yep, and I think that's the point.
posted by desjardins at 3:42 PM on April 29, 2009


If they are talking about the US they will mention the agency, institution and person by name.

Well, unless it's the Washington Post quoting some guys about how Nancy Pelosi was too briefed on the torture procedures. Then it's "officials."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:42 PM on April 29, 2009


wouldn't be an average flu outbreak

I would have to more or less agree with fightorflight and freebird. This seems more sudden, dramatic and different than any memory I have of SARS. Many more people seem to be affected in a short period of time. But concern does not need to equal fear. The reality is, its a virus, it can change rather quickly and there is little we can do about that beyond putting typical health measures in place except to wait and see how it will develop.
posted by sundri at 3:43 PM on April 29, 2009


CAR ACCIDENTS AREN'T CONTAGIOUS.

Well, if one car crashes into another car, that is sort of contagious.
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:44 PM on April 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


This seems more sudden, dramatic and different than any memory I have of SARS. Many more people seem to be affected in a short period of time.

That's because the Chinese government was involved last time. They were a bit slow releasing the true numbers. Whatever you think of corruption in the Mexican government, they're not the Chinese who are organized suppressors of information.

Also, to be honest, the US media ignored SARS. If you lived in Toronto or Hong Kong, you remember it being a big fucking deal.
posted by GuyZero at 3:45 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


unless you're a public health worker or an epidemiologist this is pretty much an act of god.

I guarantee today a thousand people won't bother washing their hands before lunch for the very same reason, or pack a few supplies away, nevermind change or put off travel plans. This "act of god" bullshit is one of the worst approaches to risk, right along with "is it time to panic?" which casts every measure of prudence as some sort of failing of character.

Say it with me folks: unpredictable does not mean random. You (sort of) got the causation and correlation distinction. You can get this.

I'd rather not panic at all. We're now one stage away from having a viral pandemic of a disease that we know far too little about to make reliable predictions as to its lethality. Panic and complacency are equally uncalled for.

Now, now. That's no way to behave on the internet.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:48 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


the Chinese who are organized suppressors of information

Your right about that one, forgot they suppressed a lot of info.
posted by sundri at 3:48 PM on April 29, 2009


This "act of god" bullshit is one of the worst approaches to risk

Well, ok, yes, wash your hands. Do people not do this to prevent the regular flu anyway? Maybe I overestimate the normal hygiene procedures for Joe Sixpack.
posted by GuyZero at 3:50 PM on April 29, 2009


All right. I get that it's just the flu, and I personally will probably not die of it...but my husband and I have a trip to Mazatlan planned for next month. Should we go? So far there are no cases anywhere near there, BUT...what if we get the sniffles and they decide we are quarantined and can't go home? Is it worth that risk? Or suppose someone on the plane has it, we do catch it, and become vectors for some poor low-immune-system person in the US? Or are we over-reacting like so many other people to even worry about these things? I'm serious; I would love some advice here.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 3:56 PM on April 29, 2009


It was pointed out to me by an epidemiologist that the death rates from the 1918 flu were actually lower than the 1889-1892 flu pandemic (which no one remembers because it was never the subject of a best-selling book).

The oddity about the 1918 pandemic was that people between 20-40 had a much higher death rate than people older or younger than them. The reason is now believed to be biological, the "cytokine storm" that's been written about where the immune system starts killing healthy lung and throat tissue, causing edema and leading to secondary infection.

Right now, we have so little data on what this virus does we have no idea if we're even looking at a similar pattern to 1918. The epidemiologist I was talking to said that death rates were pretty consistent across all ages, which itself is also unusual since flu tends to kill more in the 0-3 and 55+ age groups, but again, we have very little data to work with right now.

The good news so far is that early, aggressive treatment with antivirals and steroids have cut the death rate in Mexico considerably. The big question is whether our local health systems will be able to provide all the treatment necessary.

Don't see Level 5 as "OMG WE IZ DOOMED GOOGLETHESTAND" but instead see it like a tornado watch. The WHO is telling governments that the time for containment and monitoring has come to an end, and that what's to come is going to be all about reaction, tapping drug stockpiles, making decisions about social isolation procedures, and generally dealing with what comes with outbreaks.

And for the rest of us, it's about getting ready. It's about learning how to wash your hands, remembering to stay home from work/school if you're sick, having your emergency kits ready (the ones you have for any general disaster, remember?), and possibly picking up some surgical masks (though don't overpay for them, and know that your local government might be handing them out if the flu arrives). It's not not time to panic. It's time to get ready, just like you'd be ready for, say, getting snowed in, or going through an earthquake.

Don't panic. But don't dismiss the threat, either. And know that we may not even be in the worst of this until the coming flu season, so don't just laugh this off if people aren't getting sick in August.
posted by dw at 3:56 PM on April 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


Maybe I overestimate the normal hygiene procedures for Joe Sixpack.

You really do.
posted by Roman Graves at 3:57 PM on April 29, 2009


I'm torn. Will a full-blown flupocalypse hurt my lovelife, or would it actually improve my chance with women? I mean, what if it kills, like, 95% of the really smart, ambitious, good-looking men? Hell, if it just gets me out of work for a couple of days, I'd be fine with it.
posted by steef at 3:59 PM on April 29, 2009


From Merriam-Webster:
Epidemic: 1: affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time

Pandemic: occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population

These words merely describe the spread of the disease. They don't describe how lethal it is. In particular, pandemic doesn't equate to the 1918 Flu. There were pandemic flu outbreaks in 1957 and 1968. In 1968/69, about 1m deaths worldwide were attributed to the flu. The average death rate (currently) from flu is a few hundred thousand worldwide. So maybe around 100K back in 1968. This means that while there is an increased risk of death during a pandemic, it is mostly attributable to the rapid spread of the new strain.

In 1918, 20 to 100 million people died, in a world with much smaller population. That would be like 100 to 500 million people today. The word pandemic doesn't begin to describe that. It should really be called the 1918 Flu plague. Conflating the 1918 catastrophe with other pandemics causes needless panic. Yes, there is an increased risk of death if we have a pandemic and 5 million people die worldwide. But it is only 1 to 5% of what happened in 1918.

posted by Araucaria at 4:00 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


PS on the whole Smithfield Farms thing: We just don't know enough. We don't. Remember last year when tomatoes were thought to be the cause of that salmonella outbreak but it turned out to be peppers, despite all the visible evidence pointing to tomatoes?

Right now we have a kid who was sick but had never touched the pigs, a pig plant full of hogs that test negative for this form of H1N1, a town full of sick people that may or may not have contracted the bug from someone in town, and a lot of people ready to lay blame at the feet of evil corporations.

Let's let science do its work and wait for real evidence. If the plant's to blame, there will be plenty of time for suing and hanging later.
posted by dw at 4:05 PM on April 29, 2009


It's about learning how to wash your hands, remembering to stay home from work/school if you're sick, having your emergency kits ready

Again, am I missing something? Isn't what you describe just normal everyday life? Is it really considered normal anywhere to never wash your hands, to go to work with a fever and to have no emergency supplies on hand?

The flu is the least of many worries for people who need basic advice like this.

Also: don't choke on your tongue people. And don't douse yourself in gasoline while smoking.
posted by GuyZero at 4:06 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


As long as we're asking for advice here, I live in L.A. and am very concerned about my 10 month old daughter and five year old son (especially my baby girl). How much more at risk are they?

Anything more I can do, beyond good hygiene, to protect them?
posted by cjets at 4:06 PM on April 29, 2009




Spread the word virus: IT'S CALLED NAFTA FLU!

Robert Wallace, author of the forthcoming book Farming Human Pathogens: Ecological Resilience and Evolutionary Process coined the term to describe the Agro-Industrial Roots of Swine Flu H1N1

The NAFTA FLU Pandemic may be upon us

(eponysterical as fuck)
posted by Hammond Rye at 4:13 PM on April 29, 2009


From the CDC's "Swine Flu & You" (cue the 70's flimstrip sfx):

What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?
There is no vaccine available right now to protect against swine flu. There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. Take these everyday steps to protect your health:

* Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
* Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
* Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
* Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
* If you get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

That's it. Maybe get a good night's sleep to ensure you're not run down and try to eat a good diet. But it's not really very mysterious. Have your kids wash their hands a lot.
posted by GuyZero at 4:15 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Pandemic II: A pretty decent flash game.
posted by clearly at 4:15 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it really considered normal anywhere to never wash your hands

Actually, yes.

to go to work with a fever

You might want to check out this AskMe. And remember, many people don't even get sick days.

and to have no emergency supplies on hand?

According to these guys and their 2006 survey, 42% of respondents say they have emergency supplies on hand. And like hand-washing, that number is probably lower.
posted by dw at 4:17 PM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


It isn't a pandemic until some fundie proclaims that it's God's revenge for gay marriage and a black president and socialism and the corner market not having double stuf Oreos.
posted by qvantamon at 4:24 PM on April 29, 2009


And remember, many people don't even get sick days.

In which first-world countries other than the USA? I keep trying to avoid becoming anti-American here but really, sick days are a legal requirement pretty much everywhere else in the world. No wonder you're all panicking.
posted by GuyZero at 4:26 PM on April 29, 2009


Is it really considered normal anywhere to never wash your hands

From the "Scenes from the workplace" series:

My friend is washing his hands in the bathroom, sees a guy leaving a stall, passing straight away from the sink. My friend leaves, sees the guy going into the supply room. Guy goes in, gets one of those "sanitizing tissues", goes to the hallway phone, cleans the phone's mouthpiece with the tissue, throws it away and makes his call.
posted by qvantamon at 4:28 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


clearly, clearly you need to see this.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:29 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


It isn't a pandemic until some fundie proclaims that it's God's revenge for gay marriage and a black president and socialism and the corner market not having double stuf Oreos.--qvantamon

Well, Representative Michele Bachmann is already blaming the Democrats:
I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter. And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence.

I find it hilarious that she plays the typical 'imply something while denying that you're implying anything' game, but it backfires because she gets it all wrong.
posted by eye of newt at 4:36 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Clearly, in the face of a national emergency such as this, anyone standing in the way of universal, single-payer healthcare is unpatriotic. Possibly a crime against humanity as well.
posted by DU at 4:38 PM on April 29, 2009


In other news, The Who was recently spreading throughout Australia.

Damn you, Pete Townsend. And you too, Roger Daltrey.
posted by Mcable at 4:39 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


And Michelle Malkin is of course blaming illegal immigrants.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:41 PM on April 29, 2009


eye of newt: "I find it hilarious that she plays the typical 'imply something while denying that you're implying anything' game, but it backfires because she gets it all wrong."

A trap was laid, but she stepped into it.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:43 PM on April 29, 2009


And Michelle Malkin is of course blaming illegal immigrants.

a) scape-pigs!
b) A new flue (sic) strain? Man, Now I have to worry about my fireplace to! Damn Mexican bricklayers!
posted by GuyZero at 4:44 PM on April 29, 2009


The emergency supplies thing is a suggestion I've only seen on Metafilter, though maybe it's different in areas that are at more risk of disaster. As for working while sick, lots of people do it, especially now when jobs are harder to hold on to. And hand washing... man, I wish people washed their hands, but most don't. Spend more than five minutes in a public bathroom and you'll see a trully dismaying number of people just zip up and walk away.

It's science and technology that keep us safe from things like this swine flu. Most people have sanitary habits that are worse than any pig.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:45 PM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, Representative Michele Bachmann is already blaming the Democrats

She would also like everyone to know that Stuart "Al Franken" Smalley's pet owl is to blame for the Great Depression.
posted by scody at 4:48 PM on April 29, 2009


This swine flu brought to you by Chick-Fil-A. Eat moar.

By the National Association of Chimney Sweeps, who remind you to check your flue for creosote at least once a year.

And by this kid.
posted by dirigibleman at 4:56 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's the hottest thing sweeping the nation! Hysteria Fever! Catch it today!
posted by The Whelk at 4:59 PM on April 29, 2009


Interestingly enough, the Public Health Department in my region (just outside Toronto) seems to be very cautious. I know of one person that returned from Mexico on the weekend and felt ill on Sunday. Calling Telehealth, they asked her to go to the hospital where she was checked out and had a cheek swab. She came back as negative for swine flu but is still quarantined for the week. Fortunately, she will be paid for her quarantine time.

The library I work at just introduced self-checkout for patrons and some of my co-workers grumbled abut it until I pointed out that now they won't have to handle the library cards people carry in their mouth (seriously, you would not believe haw many people think it is perfectly acceptable to carry their books up to the counter and then remove the library card from their mouth, still dripping with saliva and hand it to a staff member. Ewww.)
posted by saucysault at 5:00 PM on April 29, 2009


Well, Representative Michele Bachmann is already blaming the Democrats

"Contrary to her statement, the previous swine flu outbreak occurred while Republican President Gerald Ford was in office."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:03 PM on April 29, 2009


seriously, you would not believe haw many people think it is perfectly acceptable to carry their books up to the counter and then remove the library card from their mouth

Awkward... *looks away into middle distance*

I got good old-fashioned pneumonia in Toronto a few years back. Man, I have never been served faster than when I showed up at a Toronto emerg with a mystery lung infection. I was isolated and xrayed in less time than it takes to get a Big Mac. SARS changed everything.
posted by GuyZero at 5:05 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


The scary part about the swine flu isn't the deadliness of it, it's the explosive spread. With SARS, and all of the previous scares, I never expected to personally get the disease. With this new one, I fully expect everyone to get it who isn't vaccinated first - and at the rate it's spreading, that's not going to be very many people. It appears at this point that containment has totally failed and there are infection points all over the US. This flu is probably going to be all over the world in no time.

So, the reason you should care about swine flu isn't the whole disease apocalypse thing, it's because you - yes, YOU - are probably going to catch it. And everyone you know. And while the odds of you dying are pretty low, the odds of someone you know dying are more substantial.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:08 PM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Mitrovarr pretty much nails my feelings on it. I fully expect to get bacon lung, but really no biggie. My parents or grandparents, on the other hand, might be in more trouble.
posted by Roman Graves at 5:15 PM on April 29, 2009


bacon lung
*giggle*
posted by saucysault at 5:17 PM on April 29, 2009


With SARS, and all of the previous scares, I never expected to personally get the disease.

Again, you weren't living in Toronto. I semi-expected to get SARS. I had meetings canceled. People were avoiding the TTC and wearing masks everywhere. It was a real possibility. It never came anywhere close to happening though.

Also, SARS had a 100% fatality rate in South Africa. Look it up.
posted by GuyZero at 5:18 PM on April 29, 2009


threadholder
posted by five fresh fish at 5:25 PM on April 29, 2009


Also, SARS had a 100% fatality rate in South Africa. Look it up.

You mean this? 1 death from 1 case is not exactly a lot of data points.

I think the point is that you don't have to live in Toronto -- or Chicago, or New York City or Los Angeles -- to be at risk of getting this.
posted by sbutler at 5:27 PM on April 29, 2009


Anybody watching this presser? His answer to swine flu demonstrated he is leading the country. He is a leader. Such a contrast.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:30 PM on April 29, 2009


oink!
posted by blue_beetle at 5:31 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's a great day to be a hypochondriac (cough! sneeze! feels forehead...)
posted by binturong at 5:32 PM on April 29, 2009


The best part of the flu flap is reading the insightful (for every 1 % deathrate, 2% drop in GDP) to the way out there claims.

At a 1944 Nazi bacteriological warfare conference in Berlin, General Walter Schreiber, Chief of the Medical Corps of the German Army told Mueller that he had spent two months in the US in 1927 conferring with his counterparts. They told him that the "so-called double blow virus" (i.e. Spanish Flu) was developed and used during the 1914 war.

"But," according to Mueller, "it got out of control and instead of killing the Germans who had surrendered by then, it turned back on you, and nearly everybody else." ("Gestapo Chief: The 1948 CIA Interrogation of Heinrich Mueller" Vol. 2 by Gregory Douglas, p. 106)
The only thing that was missing was claims aliens helped.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:32 PM on April 29, 2009


i went to freak out mode one time...
posted by kliuless at 5:38 PM on April 29, 2009


So, the reason you should care about swine flu isn't the whole disease apocalypse thing, it's because you - yes, YOU - are probably going to catch it. And everyone you know. And while the odds of you dying are pretty low, the odds of someone you know dying are more substantial.

On the other hand, it's a flu. The message from the CDC seems to be "stay clean, avoid sick people". And WHO is emphasising that influenza "may cause mild disease in affluent countries". The odds of someone you know dying from it are more substantial only in the sense that you're only one person, and more people means a great probability pool. You probably won't be struck by a chunk of weather satellite; the odds of someone you know dying in this manner are more substantial.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:39 PM on April 29, 2009


The only thing that was missing was claims aliens helped.

Heh. And don't forget this gem of a byline:
-- Henry Makow Ph.D. is the author of "A Long Way to go for a Date." His articles exposing fe-manism and the New World Order can be found at his web site
posted by scody at 5:39 PM on April 29, 2009


Just got this from the National Funeral Directors Association:

Preparing Your Funeral Home for a Pandemic

Funeral directors will play a very important role in the event of a mass-fatality event, like a pandemic flu, particularly as large number of people will be grieving the deaths of their loved ones. Funeral directors will be counted on to provide the same high level of care and compassion for families during such a challenging time as they do today.

Here are some things you will need to consider as your funeral home plans to handle any pandemic.

Work Force:

Expect to double or even triple the number of calls your funeral home will receive over a 10- to 12-month period. Most likely they will come in three surges, each lasting about six to eight weeks: one at the beginning of the outbreak, another about four weeks after the end of the first surge and a third about four weeks after the end of the second surge.
Plan for additional staffing during a pandemic situation (tasks easily delegated to retired funeral directors in the area, mortuary school students and, finally, to volunteers from church or civic groups).

Dispositions:

Crematoriums and cemeteries must look at surge capacity within their facilities.
Cremations, which have fewer resource requirements than burials, may be a more expedient and efficient way of managing large numbers of remains.
If the body is not to be cremated, plans to expedite the embalming process should be in place.
Remains may need to be stored temporarily before embalming, after embalming or for the duration of the pandemic wave (four to six weeks), so funeral directors should work with local medical examiners/ coroners and public health officials to address such a situation, which may include refrigeration, temporary interment or storage in vaults.

posted by ColdChef at 5:39 PM on April 29, 2009 [32 favorites]


Glad to see the NFDA is doing its part not to fan the flames of hysteria.

Also, fe-manism? I never heard that term before. In looking it up, I found this gem.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:43 PM on April 29, 2009


Statements like this drive me crazy. 7 (SEVEN) PEOPLE HAVE DIED FROM SWINE FLU according to the WHO.

Sigh.

Yes, in the last few days only a few people have died - however, within living memory certainly tens of thousands and most likely tens of millions of people have died from it (since the 1918 flu outbreak was probably swine flu).

It is important in dealing with world events to have a horizon greater than one or two news cycles. Even a cursory glance at history should convince you that there almost certainly be another epidemic flu outbreak at some point in the future.

On the other hand, this probably isn't it. I certainly haven't changed my behaviour in the slightest.

So it's just as I said - this is overblown but you can't blame people who have some memory of history from being a little nervous and going out of their way to prevent it from spreading. Comparing this new strain of the flu to Y2K, an event that hurt no one and nothing except a tiny percentage of the computer industry's profits, is not in any way accurate.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:48 PM on April 29, 2009


feeding the flame:
Once infected with a pathogenic influenza, the blood vessels in a patient’s lungs become porous and fibrinogen—a protein involved in blood clotting—leaks into the lungs. The protein clogs the lungs’ alveolar sacs, where gas exchange takes place, and an acute respiratory disease syndrome results. In a desperate effort to save its charge, the immune system recruits such a storm of immune cells that the lungs suffer oedema. In effect, patients drown in their own fluid only days after infection. Patients with the most responsive immune system produce the greatest immune storms. It remains to be seen, however, whether the same mechanism explains the age distribution of the current outbreak.
no big deal.
posted by Hammond Rye at 6:04 PM on April 29, 2009


Mitrovarr: " This flu is probably going to be all over the world in no time."

Are there any even ballpark numbers in yet on the transmissibility rate?

If it was spreading as fast as that, I'd expect a significant percentage of the Mexican population to be showing symptoms already.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:13 PM on April 29, 2009


I've been huffing and puffing a bit recently. The only casualties have been a couple of houses made of straw and sticks.
posted by tellurian at 6:17 PM on April 29, 2009


Oh shit. This thread's spread all the way to Australia now. We're fucked.
posted by gman at 6:20 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I fully expect everyone to get it who isn't vaccinated first - and at the rate it's spreading, that's not going to be very many people. It appears at this point that containment has totally failed and there are infection points all over the US. This flu is probably going to be all over the world in no time.

1. There's no vaccine for this variant and none expected for six months at a minimum.

2. "Everyone?" Worst case projections for a modern pandemic is an attack rate of 50%. Why do you expect this to be worse than any flu ever known in the history of humankind?

3. Given this broke out in Mexico City, multiple outbreaks in the U.S. and probably worldwide seems a basic inevitably. Right this moment the pandemic mitigation measures that have been in preparation all over the world are being put to the test. It's far too soon to know how effective they will be.
posted by nanojath at 6:27 PM on April 29, 2009


So, the reason you should care about swine flu isn't the whole disease apocalypse thing, it's because you - yes, YOU - are probably going to catch it. And everyone you know. And while the odds of you dying are pretty low, the odds of someone you know dying are more substantial.

Really? What is the probability the me - yes ME - will catch it? And everyone I know? It sounds like you're saying p=1.0 or at least p=.9 I'm going to be calling in sick from this. Although I do not doubt that many, many more people will catch this, I'm not thinking I'm going to be one of them, nor any of my friends. Even though there are suspected cases in my city and confirmed cases within 75 miles. This isn't an airborne space virus that is spread in the wind. It is the flu -- a nasty variant to be sure - but still the flu. You have to come in close contact with a person with the flu (or something they coughed on, etc) in order to get the flu.

So I will continue to wash my hands often, cover my mouth when I cough or sneeze, avoid sick people and if I do exhibit symptoms stay home from work and I think I'll do just fine.
posted by birdherder at 6:38 PM on April 29, 2009


I thought those of us who were casual hand-washers were more robust, generally speaking, than the wimps with the wipes and anti-bacterial ointments (oinkments?). Or am I doomed?
posted by maxwelton at 6:53 PM on April 29, 2009


no big deal.

And countering the scare quote:
What are the signs and symptoms of swine flu in people?
The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu.

...

Are there medicines to treat swine flu?
Yes. CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with these swine influenza viruses. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaler) that fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within 2 days of symptoms).

...

What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?

There is no vaccine available right now to protect against swine flu. There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. Take these everyday steps to protect your health:
* Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
* Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
* Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
* Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
* If you get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.*
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:56 PM on April 29, 2009


If it was spreading as fast as that, I'd expect a significant percentage of the Mexican population to be showing symptoms already.

Incubation period. We might just be seeing the outliers with a shorter incubation period. I don't think we have enough data to know if this one week is the mode for the incubation period or if it is the 2% case and next week we'll start to see the 80% block that shows symptoms after 2 weeks. If it's one of those things that gets contagious at 3 days and shows symptoms at 2 weeks, it's gonna be a wild ride.

On the other hand, IF it turns out to be a global pandemic-OMG-world's end, I'd rather be infected sooner than later. All the infected now have 100 doctors including super-sayajin researchers from the CDC treating them. If and when Captain Trips hits mainstream, people will be piling up in front of hospitals, by hundreds of patients for each new-hire intern.
posted by qvantamon at 7:11 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Richard Wenzel: In general, the incubation period is two to five days. Adult patients will excrete the virus for up to a week, but young children can excrete virus for two to three weeks. People who are immune suppressed who are infected with influenza can excrete the virus for over three weeks after infection. *
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:22 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Stop ruining our panic with facts.
posted by qvantamon at 7:27 PM on April 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Does anyone here have a ballpark figure for how much it costs to collect a sample and sequence a virus like this?

My guess is that it is on the order of tens to hundreds of dollars each, using a machine that is on the order of $100k.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:36 PM on April 29, 2009


b1tr0t: The procedure as I understand it (from the Chicago & LA press briefs) is that there is a rapid test for Influenza A. If that comes back positive, then they use a CDC test kit for swine flu, which is 99% accurate (7 hours). If that comes back positive, then they send the sample to the CDC for PCR and sequencing (24 to 48 hours).

I imagine the rapid test kits are pretty cheap when compared to the labor and overtime involved. Probably the most expensive laboratory part is the PCR and sequencing. In one conference I listened too (either LA or CDC) a reporter asked, and then answer he got back was along the lines of "We'll spend any amount to ensure the health of the American people, blah blah blah." So I imagine it's not insignificant.
posted by sbutler at 7:52 PM on April 29, 2009


All I know is that when WHO goes level 5, you have to draw 5 cards. Next time I play, it's gonna be Pandemic: Animal Edition! Swine flu, bird flu, mad cow disease, and cat scratch fever.
posted by ikahime at 7:56 PM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Or am I doomed?

Yes. You are doomed to die. Odds are not by this flu is all.

We'll spend any amount to ensure the health of the American people

I believe the Metafilter archive is full of the effort the government will undertake to ensure the welfare of the American people. Going over the archives will re-affirm your faith in your fellow man, I tell ya what.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:59 PM on April 29, 2009


Right, what I'm trying to get at is the cost of sequencing. Today it is probably still high, but much lower than in 1999. I'm wondering if ten more years will drop the cost to the point where nearly any well-equipped medical office will be able to sequence what ails you, or to the point where Brando will be including a free USB sequencer with every order over $75.

I assume that the CDC and WHO can only track a small fraction of flu cases that seek medical attention, and warrant investigation. If everyone could twitter their latest bug, we might have a very different picture of what is really out there and how fast they spread.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:02 PM on April 29, 2009


Probably the most expensive laboratory part is the PCR and sequencing.

I imagine the spendiest bits are the machines and the employee time, both of which we've already paid for.
posted by ryanrs at 8:02 PM on April 29, 2009


There is no vaccine available right now to protect against swine flu.

...and even if there was, there'd be people who'd refuse to take it because it might cause autism.
posted by magstheaxe at 8:05 PM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


The oddity about the 1918 pandemic was that people between 20-40 had a much higher death rate than people older or younger than them. The reason is now believed to be biological, the "cytokine storm" that's been written about where the immune system starts killing healthy lung and throat tissue, causing edema and leading to secondary infection.

I was listening to an epidemiologist from the UW talking on the radio about the 1918-1919 flu, and she said something I'd never heard before: that there was a precursor or "herald" wave of flu (of the same type as the coming pandemic flu) that swept around the world but didn't kill very many people (and then mainly the old and very young, as is our normal expectation for the flu) a year or so before the killer flu really struck.

I'm thinking that this precursor or herald wave of the 1918 pandemic could offer both an explanation of the fact that the 1918 pandemic killed mainly young and otherwise healthy people around the world, and the apparent fact that this current swine flu is only killing people in Mexico right now, and that the Mexicans it is killing are, again, mainly the young and healthy.

Maybe the pandemic flu wasn't all that different or more virulent than the precursor wave, but the people who were killed by the pandemic wave were people who had had a mere brush with the earlier herald wave but fought it off without developing a full immunity to it. Then when they were exposed to it a second time, they caught it, only their immune systems were primed by the earlier encounter to mount an overwhelming attack against it, but the attack was so overwhelming it ended up killing them.

This situation would be somewhat analogous to what happens to people who end up dying of bee stings, or reactions to antibiotics, or peanut allergies. In all of these cases as far as I know, the bee sting or antibiotic dose or peanut ingestion that kills them is not the first one. The first sting (or number of stings) pass without apparent problem, but, in fact, the immune system has been set up for a devastatingly severe and ultimately fatal reaction to the next bee sting.

This explanation would account for the fact that only Mexicans have died so far, if we make the reasonable assumption that the swine flu we're all so worried about has actually been circulating around in Mexico for a while now. Under this model, the Mexicans who have died would be people who previously had had a brush with the flu without developing full immunity, and are killed only because it is their second encounter with it.

No one outside of Mexico has died because no such person has had the necessary previous glancing encounter with the swine flu.

In this scenario, we don't have much to worry about right now outside of Mexico, but when the next wave of this flu comes around-- watch out.
posted by jamjam at 8:06 PM on April 29, 2009 [12 favorites]


Richard Wenzel: Despite the custom of handshaking, it is reasonable to avoid that custom for the time being.

Maybe we should take up the Japanese custom of bowing.
posted by eye of newt at 8:20 PM on April 29, 2009


And the Japanese custom of wearing masks when ill.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:28 PM on April 29, 2009


But not the Japanese custom of sending two and a half million people each day through one subway station.
posted by aubilenon at 8:35 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


This explanation would account for the fact that only Mexicans have died so far, if we make the reasonable assumption that the swine flu we're all so worried about has actually been circulating around in Mexico for a while now. Under this model, the Mexicans who have died would be people who previously had had a brush with the flu without developing full immunity, and are killed only because it is their second encounter with it.

Except it isn't like Mexico was North Korea last flu season with a closed border with no one leaving or entering. Had there been a first round it would have spread throughout the world like what is happening now.

9 million people travel internationally through Mexico City's airport a year. 600000 people legally pass through the land borders A DAY. So there's no way that there was a previous glancing that would go unnoticed.

If we're throwing out theories I think that since most of the deaths from this thing have been in Mexico City and Estado de Mexico that that is what is separating these victims from people those that are in other countries. It is environmental. Even the kid that died in Houston was from Mexico City. Getting sick and having the flu run its course in Mexico City's smog+altitude is being different than if you caught the virus because someone sneezed near you at the Starbucks at the Mexico City airport on a layover. What frustrates me about many of the news items is they all say that a person was in Mexico as if it were the size of Luxembourg. Some of the kids in Queens were in Cancun. Did they fly nonstop back to the US or did they need to go through Mexico City Airport?
posted by birdherder at 8:40 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can someone explain to me how the US health system will deal with a flu pandemic? What happens to the uninsured, and those (as mentioned upthread) who have no sick leave entitlement?

Suspect cases here (we have cases confirmed) are receiving advice, Tamiflu shots, lab tests etc from the public health system and can stay home from work in isolation.
posted by Catch at 8:55 PM on April 29, 2009


ryanrs: I imagine the spendiest bits are the machines and the employee time, both of which we've already paid for.

Actually, the reagents are surprisingly costly. Stuff like TAQ polymerase can be astonishingly expensive. You can end up handling a 2 mL tube with maybe 100 microliters of solution and finding out later that it cost $500 (of course, it sounds better when you realize that it is sufficient for over a hundred PCR reactions.)
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:08 PM on April 29, 2009


Sorry, my question above came across as rather blunt, and finger-waggingy. Not how I meant it [NOT US-IST]
What I mean is, if a section of the population can't afford medical care or even to quarantine themselves, how do you have any chance of controlling the spread of a pandemic?
posted by Catch at 9:16 PM on April 29, 2009


Well, since I posted my question upthread, they've got a few suspected cases here in the Seattle area. So I might as well go to Mazatlan, I guess...there are no cases there yet.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 9:19 PM on April 29, 2009


9 million people travel internationally through Mexico City's airport a year. 600000 people legally pass through the land borders A DAY. So there's no way that there was a previous glancing that would go unnoticed.

Good god, globalism is going to kill our species.

Can someone explain to me how the US health system will deal with a flu pandemic? What happens to the uninsured, and those (as mentioned upthread) who have no sick leave entitlement?

They die, like the Powers That Be believe they should. Same thing happened in BC, when the Provincial government did horrible cutbacks to hospitals. They don't give a shit what happens to the lower classes; indeed, I believe they want the lower classes to die. The jobs have been shipped off to China: they have no need for the poor any more.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:20 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Catch: I haven't really seen any information on that, but the uninsured will almost certainly get no care until they are critically ill -- the US health system is required by law to make sure patients without money are not immediately about to die, if someone shows up at the emergency room, but that's about it.

This of course highlights the whole insurance problem... it is estimated that 18,000 deaths in the 25-64 age group, per year, in the US, are due to lack of insurance, and that estimate was from 2004, using data from years prior to that. This study of 2006 indicates 47 million are uninsured, and it's rising about 5% a year (which would make it 54.4 million this year.)

Given the press about this flu, many of those uninsured will find the money to go in, when they have to...
posted by Super Hans at 9:44 PM on April 29, 2009


Well, since I posted my question upthread, they've got a few suspected cases here in the Seattle area.

This is just awesome.

Now people on the bus are going to glare at me even more because I'm still coughing and wheezing from a respiratory cold I had last month.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:44 PM on April 29, 2009


At the end of the day - a good herd thinning is the thing this planet most needs. That said... why is there such a dearth of information about the hundred or so that have died in Mexico so far? Can we get post-mortems?
posted by specialk420 at 10:38 PM on April 29, 2009


But who's going to rub down cortex?

$5 only goes so far.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:46 PM on April 29, 2009


a good herd thinning is the thing this planet most needs

Oh, how I'd love to hear your opinion when you're staring down the mechanism of said thinning.
posted by Roman Graves at 10:49 PM on April 29, 2009


Oh, how I'd love to hear your opinion when you're staring down the mechanism of said thinning.

We are all staring it down - the question is do we want to start doing something about the self induced risk... or just wait for the planet to do a messy job of thinning the herd for us?... perhaps its too late. What hell was our collective society thinking letting the population to get 6 billion and climbing fast?
posted by specialk420 at 10:59 PM on April 29, 2009


a good herd thinning is the thing this planet most needs

Oh, great. The "brown people have too many babies" brigade is here.
posted by dersins at 11:07 PM on April 29, 2009


I'm not disagreeing that there are probably too many of us, but I'm confused. Do you have an alternative "clean" method of thinning, Dr. Mengele?
posted by Roman Graves at 11:11 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Christ, is this stupid derail contagious too?
posted by ryanrs at 11:20 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Luckily this derail is only at threat level two. Or Yellow, or DEFCON 4. Whatever.
posted by Roman Graves at 11:33 PM on April 29, 2009


Christ, is this stupid derail contagious too?

I think at some point MeFi needs to discuss the absolutely batshitinsane moronic convergence of anti-rationality that this flu outbreak is bringing about - it's starting to transcend left and right politics and becoming a giant amoeba that eats brains and shits out conspiracy theories. And the idea that the Bilderberger-Rothschild-Illuminists want to kill most of us and enslave the rest is at the heart of that. I can't tell if specialk420 here is aware of that and merely trolling.
posted by fleetmouse at 11:54 PM on April 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


So they've gotten to you too, fleetmouse.
posted by Ritchie at 12:20 AM on April 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


b1tr0t: Right, what I'm trying to get at is the cost of sequencing.

My SO the molecular biologist estimates under $10 per kilobase. The machinery and reagents and so on are expensive, but that cost is amortized.

The NIH NCBI says “The Influenza A viral genome consists of eight, single negative-strand RNAs that can range between 890 and 2340 nucleotides long.” So maybe $100-$150 to sequence the entire thing? I assume that some segments are more interesting / more variable than others, though. If you look at the sequences people are submitting to the NIH flu gene bank, some segments are definitely more popular than others.

From my understanding of the technology, there's no fundamental reason that the equipment can't get cheap. But the consumables would be harder to get super-cheap.
posted by hattifattener at 12:46 AM on April 30, 2009


"Cost" becomes kind of confused when you're talking about killer bugs, too. I'm NOT saying that it's this one, but say, in a Stand-like scenario where everyone's going to die, no one involved in the production of sequencing machines, no skilled professional geneticist, is going to charge money, they're just going to get it done, because it's them vs the apocalypse.

If you consider that each flu has a chance, however small, of being a superbug that kills most of us, I'm ok with spending the hundred bucks per suspicious case to find out what's going on. Dollars are, after all, just a measure of perceived value in the prevailing broad economy... who cares? We'll tote up the bill later.
posted by Super Hans at 2:05 AM on April 30, 2009


This flu has now also been found in Switzerland (another case of someone returning from Mexico). There was a sign up announcing this in my local train station this morning. My partner just returned from Rome, where an American that was supposed to present with him had to bow out, due to illness. The illness seems to be only a cold.
posted by Goofyy at 3:34 AM on April 30, 2009


Can the herd thinning start with Michele Bachmann? Please?
posted by bitter-girl.com at 5:16 AM on April 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


I assume people are in the process of developing some type of antigen/antibody based detection system (ELISA) for the identification of this virus. The main cost of these methods is the anitbody itself and detection reagents. In addition, they do not require specialized equipment, and just about anyone can run one themselves with little training (they can be as simple as a pregnancy test). Having said that, you probably don't want people without thorough safety training testing potentially infectious materials.
posted by batou_ at 5:16 AM on April 30, 2009


Well duh, but which doctor?

Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang
Walla walla, bing bang
posted by inigo2 at 6:01 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


A comment I saw yesterday on the Boston Globe's (I think) swine flu story:



"I'm excited to die from this!!!"
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:43 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's the Swinal Countdown.
posted by kldickson at 6:48 AM on April 30, 2009 [13 favorites]


Also, dude, it's not just brown people, it's black people and white people and blue people and green people. If you can use it in Photoshop, it's got to reproduce less.

Octarine people, however, can reproduce as much as they can.
posted by kldickson at 6:50 AM on April 30, 2009


Also, fleetmouse, perhaps you would like to contribute the FPP.
posted by kldickson at 6:52 AM on April 30, 2009


April 30th: Mexican President Felipe Calderon ordered government offices and private businesses not crucial to the economy to stop work... for a five-day partial shutdown of the economy.
posted by tybeet at 6:53 AM on April 30, 2009


So shall we all wear masks to the meetup Friday just to be alarmist ironic dicks?
posted by vrakatar at 7:05 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bad news: Cheney outlives us all
Good news: The ants will feast on him


[munch munch] [thoughtful pause]
...I didn't know evil had a flavor.
posted by workerant at 7:06 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


alternative "clean" method of thinning?

Weisman has a decent suggestion of simply educating the worlds population about the ramifications of adding 10 million people per month to our collective population and what that will mean for us and our children (a lot more SARS, swine flu, war, famine). The other option is a 1 child per family future (achieved through public education and opting into a better way forward) where we level off population growth and its starts to decline - providing a "clean" thinning in coming decades rather than the messy thinning that will assuredly happen if we don't get our collective sh*t together. Quite sure Michelle Bachmann would be against any sort of public education of this sort though.
posted by specialk420 at 7:43 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Being a Muslim, Obama is, of course, safe from the swine flu. Regular Americans, eating natural American diets, are still at risk of contamination of our precious bodily fluids.
posted by clockzero at 8:00 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Onion needs to do a piece on how Macafee is scrambling to update their anti-virus filters, with lots of PR defensiveness and finger-pointing.
posted by sidereal at 8:06 AM on April 30, 2009


Can we please not do the overpopulation derail?
posted by salvia at 8:08 AM on April 30, 2009


specialk420: "adding 10 million people per month to our collective population"

Given the poverty that most of them are born into, we can picture that as a new Mexico City every month.

Make no mistake... the herd is going to get thinned one way or another. But I don't need any cheerleading for one of the crueler methods.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:10 AM on April 30, 2009


Also, fleetmouse, perhaps you would like to contribute the FPP.

I don't know if it's FPP worthy. And I don't really have time this week to do it justice. I'd just like to note that the Alex Jones perspective is riding this event into mainstream consciousness, to the extent that Jon Stewart is satirizing it the way he normally satirizes the braindead segment of the GOP. And while it's nice to see someone trying to combat it through humor, it's worrisome that he'd even take notice of it at all.

The "first 100 days of the far right" FPP just got closed, which would have been a nice place to discuss the mainstreaming of right wing nuttery via Glenn Beck et al. Oh well.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:16 AM on April 30, 2009


A couple years back, King County, here in Seattle, did a test delivery of some little empty boxes to simulate delivery of medicine during an emergency situation. The Rand group just finished a report on the effectiveness of the whole program, an odd synchronicity I'm sure someone will go conspiratorial over eventually.
posted by nomisxid at 8:17 AM on April 30, 2009


For the King fans:


A bunch of Stand characters began appearing on Twitter yesterday. I started following Mother Abigail (http://twitter.com/motherabigail) and soon got a delicious email informing me that "Randall Flagg is now following you on Twitter!"

See also:
http://twitter.com/MOONtomcullen
http://twitter.com/Nadine_Cross
http://twitter.com/Stu_Redman
http://twitter.com/larry_underwood
http://twitter.com/glenbateman
http://twitter.com/VegasWalkinDude

etc.

This is the first time I've ever liked Twitter.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:19 AM on April 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think the overpopulation derail comes up in these threads/topics because a sub-text of them is always: "we're all going to die!" Of course we are all going to die, whether or not it will be the latest virus or not but that's never taken into account. The emergence of the virus/superbug is often tied in, if only by association, with the over-population of the planet, etc etc. Black Death raised plenty of ruckus in a population of 100 million who had no access to planes or cars.

It's kind of a corollary of the misunderstandings spawned by the original topic...
posted by From Bklyn at 8:22 AM on April 30, 2009


Just the other day, while searching for popsicle recipes of all things, I read a blog by a mother of 5. She deplored the "oppressive societal standard" of having 2 kids, was against birth control of all forms, and called working outside the home, for mothers, a sin. When some people left her comments along the lines of, "we can't afford to stay at home", she said to stop paying for health insurance. Her family didn't buy any, and vaccines! Hell no! Those voodoo chemicals weren't going into her kids. Her kids got sick less because she was a better mom. I thought of her when news of the flu came out.

So yes, culling population through education would be nice, but apparently even in 1st world countries with a fertility rate of 2.1/female, there are going to be idiots screwing it up for the rest of us.

BTW, mango nectar, a banana and a squeeze of lime= delicious popsicles.
posted by fontophilic at 8:27 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


To pile on with what I would consider to be (but very well might not be) common knowledge, here is a "cheat sheet" from the Red Cross. I know this refers mostly to seasonal flu, but I am a DAT volunteer with the Red Cross and this is what we're being asked to distribute and refer to.
posted by rollbiz at 8:34 AM on April 30, 2009


Joe Biden is telling people to avoid subways and planes.

(Buys subway transfer and books flight to Mexico...)
posted by VicNebulous at 8:50 AM on April 30, 2009


isn't this the perfect time for a little reminder of just what an important role the CDC plays in keeping us safe from disease outbreaks?

oh sure, those are the folks that say vaccines don't cause autism!
posted by andywolf at 8:55 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, everyone's still here, eh? Whew, what a relief! I thought for certain the pig bug would have killed us all by daybreak.

If you're panicking, you might do well to check out Reuter's swine flu page, at the bottom of which is a global map detailed number of confirmed cases, number of suspected cases, and number of deaths - the map alone will probably help keep things in perspective, especially if you think about how many people contract/die from plain ol' flu every year.

Also, WSJ is now liveblogging the flu, and providing other helpful links. This page alone might keep you so busy clicking around that you never step out into the big bad world and catch and disease at all.

It's a shitty bug to get, but it is avoidable and treatable, both fairly easily. And it is still far more likely than not that you will not even contract it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:12 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think at some point MeFi needs to discuss the absolutely batshitinsane moronic convergence of anti-rationality that this flu outbreak is bringing about - it's starting to transcend left and right politics and becoming a giant amoeba that eats brains and shits out conspiracy theories. And the idea that the Bilderberger-Rothschild-Illuminists want to kill most of us and enslave the rest is at the heart of that. I can't tell if specialk420 here is aware of that and merely trolling.

Did someone call my name ?
posted by Tin Foil Hat Squad Captain at 9:12 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


We're saved!
posted by fleetmouse at 9:22 AM on April 30, 2009


I'm back now. Is everyone dead yet? If so, I apologize to all the dead people for not panicking enough. Unless you died of panic. In which case I TOTALLY TOLD YOU SO.
posted by GuyZero at 10:15 AM on April 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


Patient Zero is four years old and not dead. Why should I be concerned?

Just drinking the water in Mexico can cause worse things than Swine Flu.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:35 AM on April 30, 2009


It's generally the panicky types that frustrate me more in these sorts of cases, but it's actually the smug complacents that are surpassing themselves this time.

I was in Toronto during the SARS scare, and it really wasn't pleasant. But the interesting thing was that just a few hours away life went on exactly as normal; you'd have no idea that anything was going on. Contrary to claims upthread, SARS was never a "global pandemic". Swine flu is on the cusp of being one. Comparisons between the two -- while already specious thinking that reads like "they said a bad thing would happen and it didn't; this is a bad thing they're saying will happen therefore it won't" -- aren't really warranted.

It's a shitty bug to get, but it is avoidable and treatable, both fairly easily
Your certainty is quite something considering we're just four days into the outbreak, still within the incubation period, and especially given that there's a pattern for the first phase of a pandemic to be relatively mild. Can you back this up with anything more than your innate scepticism and stats so fresh and meagre as to be useless?

I know it's frustrating not to be able to slap down people who are concerned and reject rolling media hype in the knee-jerk way we've become accustomed to but, seriously, we don't know enough about this yet to be able to do that.

Until we do, snark about funeral homes being asked to take reasonable preparations and mockery about people's concerns is flatly unhelpful. Someone upthread likened our current state to a tornado watch, and it's a really good comparison. Of course, there are always people who show off their cojones by sitting it out in a bar, but it's rare that they actually feel the need to heckle the people who are considering what's the best course of action to take.

Hopefully it passes safely by, but at this stage, armchair sarcasm is about as helpful as a wet fingertip in the breeze is to hurricane forecasting.
posted by fightorflight at 10:35 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Swine flu, regular flu, sniffles, cold...whatever people have, I have a 4 month old baby on immunosupressant drugs to help him heal his inflammed lungs stemming from his lovely RSV/bronchiolitis infection he acquired back in Feb at 6 weeks old.

The pediatrician said my kid has to stay well and needs a long break from illness in order for his lungs to heal.

So now my rule is if anyone coughs on me, I'm punching them in the face.
posted by dasheekeejones at 10:53 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Your certainty is quite something considering we're just four days into the outbreak, still within the incubation period, and especially given that there's a pattern for the first phase of a pandemic to be relatively mild. Can you back this up with anything more than your innate scepticism and stats so fresh and meagre as to be useless?

Actually, yes, if you scroll up to the multiple links to the CDC and WHO, both of whom provide guidelines for prevention and treatment, you'll see that swine flu is indeed easily preventable and treatable. It sucks to get it, especially if you live in a high temperature, high humidity developing nation, but it's not airborne HIV. And this is all stuff we know at the outset.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:55 AM on April 30, 2009


I can't tell if specialk420 here is aware of that and merely trolling.

Fairly typical metfilter response - hem, haw and snicker about a serious topic, then get your panties in a bundle when someone suggests we might talk about the source of the problem and what we might do to prevent it in the future?

Reminds me of the clowns on CNBC not so long ago
posted by specialk420 at 11:01 AM on April 30, 2009


The problem I personally have with "overpopulation" discussions online is that it's usually an excuse to talk about poor brown people breeding like rabbits while those of us in our first world homes face societal collapse. It becomes a racialist argument invoking Machiavellian suggestions of forced sterilization and baby caps while ignoring the real problems of economic disparity and resource hoarding.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:09 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, trolling then.
posted by dersins at 11:09 AM on April 30, 2009


Do you have swine flu?

posted by CunningLinguist at 11:14 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Contrary to claims upthread, SARS was never a "global pandemic".

SARS cases were found in 29 countries. People died of SARS in 11 countries. If that's not good enough for "global pandemic" I'm not sure what is. I mean, unless you're comparing it to the regular influenza which kills thousands of people every year in nearly every country of the world. In which case the pandemic has been upon us since, uh, forever.

specious thinking that reads like "they said a bad thing would happen and it didn't; this is a bad thing they're saying will happen therefore it won't" -- aren't really warranted

SARS was a new category of virus that was previously unknown for the most part - presumably there was some prior study of coronaviruses. Influenza is probably one of the most widely-studied and understood viruses in the world. Influenza already kills thousands of people every year. For this to be anything worse than typical everyday life it has to become several orders of magnitude more deadly.

You are correct that this is not actual proof - we will know it's a pandemic when it becomes a pandemic and not a moment before. However, given that SARS was a pretty big deal and public health practices, procedures and funding improved significantly in its wake, I expect publich health officials will do exactly what they promise: keep pretty much everybody alive.

I'm not saying everyone should book a trip to Mexico, sheesh. Wash your hands. Stay home. And, let me reiterate my previous life-saving advice: don't choke on your tongue either.

Why not panic about avian flu (H5N1) in Egypt, Indonesia, Viet Nam and other places? It has a 61% fatality rate. The have been 3x the number of reported cases versus H1N1. Oh wait, because those are Not Americans and what happens to them is irrelevant, while one death in the US is a legitimate cause to panic.

H1N1, so far, has been seen in 9 countries, 148 cases and 7 deaths. (6 Mexico, 1 US. Sounds like a soccer match) Mostly Mexico, the same way SARS was contained primarily to China and Hong Kong. I know very well how an exponential growth pattern works but I also know that given the small number of data points we have that this could be linear, logarithmic or simply noise. The only difference is that an American died!!! Which means that it must be worse than any other disease EVAR.

And let's not forget everyone favourite hemmoragic fever, Ebola!
From October 2001 to December 2003, several Ebola outbreaks of the Zaïre subtype were reported in Gabon and the Republic of the Congo with a total of 302 cases and 254 deaths.
An 84% fatality rate! Holy shit! But, oh wait, again Not Americans. Whew.

Of course, there are always people who show off their cojones by sitting it out in a bar, but it's rare that they actually feel the need to heckle the people who are considering what's the best course of action to take.

Heckle? The only people I'm heckling are the ones who seem to be excited about the possibility of a global "Left Behind" scenario. It's not happening.

However, when I am proved to be wrong, everyone can celebrate by beginning the looting at my house. I'll stock up on whole canned chickens.

Also, I fully admit and concede that the greatest threat to my health right now is my involvement in this thread. Mental health especially. I'll try to tone it down.
posted by GuyZero at 11:36 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


H1N1, so far, has been seen in 9 countries, 148 cases and 7 deaths. (6 Mexico, 1 US. Sounds like a soccer match) Mostly Mexico, the same way SARS was contained primarily to China and Hong Kong.

That link only lists 26 cases in Mexico, which is a third of the cases in the US. That doesn't agree with anything else I've heard.
posted by smackfu at 11:41 AM on April 30, 2009


The only difference is that an American died!!!

I appreciate your ranting, but this was big news before any Americans died.
posted by smackfu at 11:42 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


The problem I personally have with "overpopulation" discussions online is that it's usually an excuse to talk about poor brown people breeding like rabbits while those of us in our first world homes face societal collapse.

Thats fine you are entitled to your "problem personally" - but your "problem" isn't at all what I or Weisman are talking about.

We're talking about helping the least among us in the future as they will be most adversely affected by the continued 10 million + addition to the population - exactly what is happening in Mexico (US owned factory pig farms - driving small farmers out business and polluting the planet). It is ok to talk about overpopulation and I would suggest absolutely essential.
posted by specialk420 at 11:46 AM on April 30, 2009


You are correct! I missed update 6! It has actually really exploded:

April 30: 11 countries, 257 cases, 8 deaths (1 US, 7 Mexico).
April 29: 11 countries, 148 cases, 7 deaths.

That's actually a lot of cases in one day. I'll buy extra chickens.
posted by GuyZero at 11:47 AM on April 30, 2009


this was big news before any Americans died

Yeah, the LA Times was running daily articles on SARS and H1N1 during those outbreaks.
posted by GuyZero at 11:48 AM on April 30, 2009


I meant H5N1 there.
posted by GuyZero at 11:51 AM on April 30, 2009


The first American death was the 29th. That was yesterday. There have been threads on this for a week now.
posted by smackfu at 11:51 AM on April 30, 2009


There have been threads on this for a week now.

I am all ears as to why swine flu gets daily news coverage and why SARS and H5N1 got next to none when they have, to date, had significantly higher death rates and reported cases.
posted by GuyZero at 11:53 AM on April 30, 2009


Good god, globalism is going to kill our species.

Globalism will probably save our species because it increases the diversity in any given community, and diverse systems are more robust and survivable than monocultures.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 11:56 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you're panicking, you might do well to check out Reuter's swine flu page, at the bottom of which is a global map detailed number of confirmed cases

The BBC also has a good, regularly updated Swine flu map, along with a slider gizmo at the bottom if you're interested in a timeline view. Also: the beeb has a very good news roundup of the latest (as you would expect).
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 12:10 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Globalism will probably save our species because it increases the diversity in any given community, and diverse systems are more robust and survivable than monocultures.

This is actually untrue, as any quick study of non-native species and the effects of their introduction into new systems will show. This tends to create monocultures through lack of predation more often than contributing to the health of the ecosystem. Diversity is a balance easily upset.

Are we still posting lulz?
posted by hippybear at 12:23 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just chiming in as someone who was in Toronto for SARS and who thinks swine flu is more serious than it. It's the transmission potential, not the fatality rate. MRSA (just to pick one example) is horrible and very bad, but it doesn't transmit like this. I'm not saying it's the death flu, just, you know, take some precautions. I have a flight tomorrow morning, I wonder how that will go.
posted by Super Hans at 12:28 PM on April 30, 2009


I am all ears as to why swine flu gets daily news coverage and why SARS and H5N1 got next to none when they have, to date, had significantly higher death rates and reported cases.

My guess is because we were busy with the run-up and invasion of Iraq when SARS started hitting the news in early 2003.

Whereas right now nothing is going on.
posted by smackfu at 12:32 PM on April 30, 2009


The conspiracy theorists ought to have fun with this. OMG OBAMA MADE THE FLU IN HIS SECRET SOCIALIST LABORATORY AND GAVE IT TO SOMEONE IN HIS OWN ADMINISTRATION TO TRY TO FOOL EVERYONE!!!!!
posted by scody at 12:35 PM on April 30, 2009



Why not panic about avian flu (H5N1) in Egypt, Indonesia, Viet Nam and other places? It has a 61% fatality rate. The have been 3x the number of reported cases versus H1N1. Oh wait, because those are Not Americans and what happens to them is irrelevant, while one death in the US is a legitimate cause to panic.


I think it's more because H5N1 has not successfully made the mutation to easy human-to-human transmission via air (you have to live near/with infected livestock to get it). The media reaction after that leap happens will make what they're doing now seem like nothing.
posted by longdaysjourney at 12:43 PM on April 30, 2009


On the infectiousness of SARS, from Harvard magazine, March-April 2007:(emphasis mine)
The [Amoy Gardens apartment complex in Hong Kong SARS ] outbreak was traced to one man who had been undergoing kidney dialysis at a local hospital and was staying at his brother’s apartment. The patient’s symptoms included fever and diarrhea. Investigators found that plumbing in the building was likely to blame for the virus’s unusual transmission pattern: drain traps in the shower floors were either dry, faulty, or missing. When residents turned on bathroom fans, this sucked air from the common waste drainpipe into their living space. Virus in droplets or aerosol from the victim’s stool entered other apartments with these ambient air currents. This demonstrated that the virus could infect people via the fecal-oral route as well as the respiratory route, and became the working hypothesis for most of the transmission that occurred in the building, Block E, where the man stayed. But that explained only part of this unusual super-spreading event: residents of apartment buildings downwind of the building where the man stayed also became ill. That suggested that the virus might have been carried some distance by prevailing winds on the night the man visited his brother—a frightening prospect indeed.
Influenza does not, to my limited knowledge, spread via aerosolized feces.

At this point, I care less about people freaking out about swine flu - freak out all you want - but please understand that SARS was very, very, very bad and you probably didn't freak out about it nearly enough. Anyone who dismisses SARS as "not a global pandemic" or "not as infectious" is wrong.
(from a diagram caption) This diagram detailing SARS transmission in Singapore shows the important role of “super-spreaders” in transmitting the disease. Five people caused more than half of the 205 cases there.
But, to be fair to those who are unwavering in their defense of panic:
“But overall, the sum total of control for SARS was barely adequate. Flu is a considerably harder problem. The fact that we barely controlled SARS is not at all reassuring.”
posted by GuyZero at 12:58 PM on April 30, 2009


Anyone who dismisses SARS as "not a global pandemic" or "not as infectious" is wrong.

Who's dismissing SARS as "not a global pandemic?" The big thing there is we got out in front of SARS early and kept it contained to the Far East and Toronto. We never hit pandemic level 5 with it. But it was certainly global -- it reached all five continents.

Whether it's "not as infectious" is a big question. The virus certainly lasted longer and sickened people with no patient contact in Toronto hospitals. OTOH, we don't really have any ideas on how many people, when exposed, got sick. As well, it was so dangerous that containment procedures rapidly lowered the ability for the disease to be passed from person to person.

Flu is seen as "not a big deal" by most people. So, containment is lax. Plus, its death rate of <1>9.6%) means it's just a shoulder shrug from healthy people. The problem here is if the 5% kill rate holds (and I'm thinking it may not with containment and early intervention prevailing), you have something being passed around as something 1/5th as lethal as what it actually is.

And we've had prior experience with flu epidemics. Millions died in 1968, millions died in 1918-19, millions died between 1889 and 1892. We have history with this bug. The problem is that because it's a known, we treat it as the known.

Is all this panic justified? No. But neither is dismissing it as "mostly harmless." If 20% of Toronto were infected and 5% of them die, that's 50,000 people dying over the course of the pandemic. That'd be about enough to fill the Skydome.
posted by dw at 1:33 PM on April 30, 2009


That'd be about enough to fill the Skydome.

And would make the swine flu more popular than the Argos!
posted by GuyZero at 1:41 PM on April 30, 2009


Anyone who dismisses SARS as "not a global pandemic" or "not as infectious" is wrong.

I'm not dismissing it -- like I said, I was in Toronto and very aware of it -- I'm just making the distinction that it wasn't a global pandemic, according to the WHO standard. Swine Flu is on the cusp, and is accordingly getting somewhat greater attention (perhaps in part because of lessons learned during Sars, ironically)

Likewise, Marisa: yes, it is easily preventable -- so long as people are alert and scared enough to take the required measures to prevent it. If naysayers are running around dismissing the whole thing as yet more hype, that won't happen and a virus of unknown impact, one that we have no immunity to, will run rampant.
posted by fightorflight at 1:43 PM on April 30, 2009


Likewise, Marisa: yes, it is easily preventable -- so long as people are alert and scared enough to take the required measures to prevent it. If naysayers are running around dismissing the whole thing as yet more hype, that won't happen and a virus of unknown impact, one that we have no immunity to, will run rampant.

Well, there's a balance, isn't there? I think the WHO, Dr. Chan in particular, has done a good job in making people fully aware of what sort of risks we're looking at. Her attitude and POV seems in stark contrast to the End of Days montages we're saying from some of the cheesier news outlets. All I've been trying to do in this thread is point to facts and information so that maybe some people can learn what the required measures are. Drumming this up into a cacophony of sheer panic does not make for rational thinking.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:02 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


On the subject of closing airports to prevent the spread, there was a 2006 study in which the spread in the US and UK of a theoretical human-to-human influenza pandemic was modeled. One of the factors they investigated was shutting down airports and borders to try to prevent the disease from entering the country.
Here we examine the impact of the border controls imposed by the United States or Great Britain to reduce numbers of inbound travellers (the results are very similar for both countries). Figure 2a shows how a 90%, 99% or 99.9% reduction in imported infections might delay the peak of the US pandemic by 1.5, 3, or 6 weeks, respectively (comparable delays would be expected for other Western countries given the similar mobility of their populations). To put these reductions into context, the 2003 SARS crisis resulted in an 80% reduction in travel to and from Hong Kong. The magnitude of the impact of border controls is governed by the rate at which global infection prevalence increases. A tenfold reduction in numbers of visitors delays arrival of infection for approximately as long as it takes global prevalence to increase tenfold to compensate — 12.5 days using the global model assumed here.
In other words, in the face of a real global pandemic, even the absolute strictest enforcement of airline closures (such as the week after 9/11) only buys you a delay of several weeks to a month at best, which is a real downer. (Standard disclaimers apply: this was just a mathematical model of a hypothetical pandemic, etc.)
posted by Rhomboid at 2:05 PM on April 30, 2009


Investigators found that plumbing in the building was likely to blame for the virus’s unusual transmission pattern: drain traps in the shower floors were either dry, faulty, or missing. When residents turned on bathroom fans, this sucked air from the common waste drainpipe into their living space. Virus in droplets or aerosol from the victim’s stool entered other apartments with these ambient air currents. This demonstrated that the virus could infect people via the fecal-oral route as well as the respiratory route

Well, that's the foulest thing I'm going to read for a while.
posted by COBRA! at 2:05 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


So when is the next installment of 28 Days Later coming out?
posted by desjardins at 2:25 PM on April 30, 2009


This is more like it:
Scientists studying the virus are coming to the consensus that this hybrid strain of influenza -- at least in its current form -- isn't shaping up to be as fatal as the strains that caused some previous pandemics.

In fact, the current outbreak of the H1N1 virus, which emerged in San Diego and southern Mexico late last month, may not even do as much damage as the run-of-the-mill flu outbreaks that occur each winter without much fanfare.
LA Times
posted by fightorflight at 2:28 PM on April 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


desjardins: eh, sometime. Maybe. It won't be set in France, but possibly Russia.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:43 PM on April 30, 2009


From fightorflight's LA Times link:

Ralph Tripp, an influenza expert at the University of Georgia...

Eponysterical goodness.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:59 PM on April 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm a big fan of that LA Times article. I'm going to stop reading about swine flu on that note (for a while anyway). I'm sure someone will come in here and point out why the article's conclusions are flawed, but I'm not going to read this thread anymore either. Take that swine flu!
posted by diogenes at 5:39 PM on April 30, 2009


As a warning, /b/ (4chan's "Anonymous") is printing off fake swine flu flyers.
posted by amuseDetachment at 10:00 PM on April 30, 2009


amuseDetachment: they're doing a lot more than that... the white noise will increase. I hope it doesn't drown out anything we need to hear.
posted by hippybear at 12:04 AM on May 1, 2009


Nice. I'm all for pranking the dumbshit media, guys. My big worry is that it's all dumbshit, and it'll be hard to know when to really become concerned. Guess I'll be going to source as much as possible, ie. the CDC and such.

It is very, very unfortunate that most of the population has difficulty differentiating quality sources from crappy sources. The /b/tards could stand an extremely good chance of succeeding in causing a panic.

At the same time, I'm tempted to snag the PDF, eliminate the mention of H1N1, pandemic, etcetera, and post this as a good hygiene poster. I'm really getting tired of jackasses coming in to work sick and infecting-up the place with their poor habits. A little awareness during a media panic might help cinch some behavioural changes.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:36 AM on May 1, 2009


The /b/tards are already failing. Some of their non-US flyers contain the HHS logo.
posted by kldickson at 5:00 AM on May 1, 2009


Non-Americans, that's the Health and Human Services logo.
posted by kldickson at 5:01 AM on May 1, 2009


> Globalism will probably save our species because it increases the diversity in any given community, and diverse systems are more robust and survivable than monocultures.

This is actually untrue, as any quick study of non-native species and the effects of their introduction into new systems will show. This tends to create monocultures through lack of predation more often than contributing to the health of the ecosystem. Diversity is a balance easily upset.


I'm talking about diversity in our species. You could joke about globalisation creating the McWorld monoculture, but in terms of human genetic diversity, we're stronger for it.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 7:12 AM on May 1, 2009


Considering that there was speculation that Mexico may soon collapse due to the drug war I wonder how things will pan out there in the upcoming months.
posted by saucysault at 8:27 AM on May 1, 2009


I'm talking about diversity in our species. You could joke about globalisation creating the McWorld monoculture, but in terms of human genetic diversity, we're stronger for it.

Not wanting to generate a complete derail... but, any forward progress we might be making with our supposed global gene mixer is easily outdone by modern medicine and its ability to allow the survival of members of the population who have genetic weakness (such as diabetes or food allergies or susceptibility to infection or... ) to survive to childbearing age. We have, at most, 100 years of real global mixing, but we also have about that long of helping people live who really, in a "natural world", would not be alive.

(I am not a eugenicist, nor do I play one on TV. These statements are made for conversation only, and do not show any believe on behalf of the poster that we should be culling the herd of weak members to strengthen the population. Neither should they be taken to show any disbelief of the necessity or efficacy of modern medicine.)
posted by hippybear at 8:39 AM on May 1, 2009


At least us Brits are keeping a level head about the whole thing.
Wait a minute...
posted by DZ-015 at 8:40 AM on May 1, 2009


er, um... do not show any belief on behalf
posted by hippybear at 8:42 AM on May 1, 2009


April 30: 11 countries, 257 cases, 8 deaths (1 US, 7 Mexico).
April 29: 11 countries, 148 cases, 7 deaths.


May 1: 11 countries, 331 cases, 10 deaths (1 US, 9 Mexico).
posted by GuyZero at 9:50 AM on May 1, 2009


May 2: 15 countries, 615 cases, 17 deaths (1 US, 16 Mexico)

Good news is the mortality rate is now down to 2.7%, which is still 3-4x higher than a normal flu, but way below even the 4.7% rate of three days ago. It will probably plummet even more as the hundreds of suspected cases in the US are confirmed in the coming week.

We still don't know a lot of things about the state of play, though, e.g. why so many deaths in Mexico vs. so few in the US. We also don't know if this is a "herald wave" that looks fairly innocuous but turns into a nightmare when it flares back up in the fall, or if it's going to just burn itself out with the current cases.

I'm starting to feel like the "pandemic" fears -- where we're looking at a 25-50% morbidity and a 5-10% kill rate -- are easing. But even if we're looking at a normal morbidity rate and a double normal mortality rate, that means 500K more people worldwide will die than in a normal flu season.
posted by dw at 10:13 AM on May 2, 2009


Update 10 on May 2 is 658 cases in 16 countries! Someone got it in Costa Rica! You go Costa Rica!

There's going to be a short-term upswing in reported cases as testing results come back, then it should level off for a few days and finally begin to drop off as people get better. Toronto had a "bi-modal distribution" of SARS cases where there was a second wave of infections, but the aggressive quarantine procedures in place in the US & Mexico should prevent that. That is the point of them.
posted by GuyZero at 9:54 PM on May 2, 2009


Canada confirms 200 H1N1 cases... in pigs.
Dr. Brian Evans, executive vice-president of the CFIA, said at a news conference in Ottawa that the pigs were apparently infected by a farm worker who had recently been in Mexico and fell ill upon his return.
TAKE THAT, PIGS!
posted by GuyZero at 10:41 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


3 May 2009 -- As of 1600 GMT, 3 May 2009, 18 countries have officially reported 898 cases of influenza A(H1N1) infection. 20 deaths.

Odd that they feel they have to issue two updates a day, but I guess things are changing fast.
posted by GuyZero at 8:05 PM on May 3, 2009


Apr30 : 11 countries,  257 cases,   8 deaths ( 1 US,  7 Mexico).
Apr29 : 11 countries,  148 cases,   7 deaths.
May01 : 11 countries,  331 cases,  10 deaths ( 1 US,  9 Mexico).
May02 : 15 countries,  615 cases,  17 deaths ( 1 US, 16 Mexico).
May03 : 18 countries,  898 cases,  20 deaths.


Pretty cool how for the first time we're really able to track a very specific flu virus as it spreads through the population. I am certain we are learning all sorts of science from this. Get people just panicked enough that this virus with a unique signature is closely tracked with great accuracy.

I can see how this information can lead to very good things, like better hygiene practices and better work safety (sick days need to be affordable; we lose a lot of productivity by being cheap about insisting sick workers stay the hell home). I can see how this information could lead to very bad things, like purposeful viral warfare. I can see how a pharmaceutical company might be very interested in having the ability to both create and release viruses, and run mop-up on remedying and relieving the ill effects. They've done it before and they'll do it again.

Sure as shit a manufactured virus is going to get out into the population one of these days. Guh.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:58 PM on May 3, 2009


Swine Flu Outbreak May Subside, but Officials Are Wary of a Second Wave
posted by homunculus at 8:58 AM on May 4, 2009


both create and release viruses, and run mop-up on remedying and relieving the ill effects. They've done it before and they'll do it again.

What's this referring to?
posted by fightorflight at 11:09 AM on May 4, 2009


I believe it is referring to batshitinsane paranoia.
posted by dersins at 11:26 AM on May 4, 2009


^-----SPARTA!
posted by dersins at 11:29 AM on May 4, 2009


What's this referring to?

Possibly the Tuskegee syphyllis study.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:35 AM on May 4, 2009


Except that the Tuskegee study

A. Was a government study, not a pharmaceutical company study
and more importantly
B. Was morally and ethically bankrupt because it involved denying treatment, not because it involved deliberately infecting members of the public with a communicable disease.
posted by dersins at 12:20 PM on May 4, 2009


Hey, I'm just throwing out guesses here. I'm also curious to know what fff is talking about.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:22 PM on May 4, 2009


I'll let everyone just go to the WHO page themselves, but over 1,000 reported cases now and still no one dead outside of the initial group that got it in Mexico - the US death was a Mexican child visiting US relatives. My condolences to all the Mexican families that have lost a loved one.
posted by GuyZero at 3:11 PM on May 4, 2009


Several pharma companies have released viruses into the population. One of them did it with AIDS-tainted blood products; another did it with live virus in a vaccine; etcetera. There is huge profit incentive for a pharmaceutical company to release "Round-up Ready" viruses, providing both the illness and the cure.

But as regards this Flu-A H1N1 virus, afaik this is the first time we've been able to track a virus so damn well. There is a *ton* of stuff being learned about its spread.

That knowledge will be used for both good and bad.

Nothing paranoic or bizarre about it.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:45 PM on May 4, 2009


Several pharma companies have released viruses into the population.[citation needed]
posted by dersins at 4:52 PM on May 4, 2009


There's no cure for diseases cause by viruses...? And most vaccines are not exactly huge profit makers versus the Viagaras ans Xanaxs of the world. I mean, there's a reason there's no malaria vaccine - it's because there's no money in it.
posted by GuyZero at 5:00 PM on May 4, 2009


Baxter releases H5N1 Avian Flu.

Bayer releases HIV in blood products. And did so for a year or two after knowing the product was going to kill people.

Meridian release H2N2 Asian Flu.

Plum Island releases foot and mouth disease into cattle.

Honestly, it's not exactly difficult to find these things out.

Tamiflu sales are way the hell up, GuyZero. There is one helluva profit motive.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:21 PM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not going to say you're wrong, but never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence.

As for Tamiflu, revenues dropped in 2008 sharply because governments apparently have large stockpiles already built up. And considering they only administer it once you have a proven infection, that's what - 1,000 extra doses sold? Not a very big deal. Besides, you basically have to assume that Roche is run entirely by sociopaths to justify releasing flu strains to improve drug sales. I'm not completely prepared to start believing that the real world has become a James Bond film.
posted by GuyZero at 6:29 PM on May 4, 2009


over 1,000 reported cases now and still no one dead outside of the initial group that got it in Mexico
Is there some informed speculation somewhere about why the early cases have such higher mortality? It can't be only that later cases are getting better treatment.
posted by hattifattener at 7:22 PM on May 4, 2009


Bayer's AIDS release was entirely, deliberately purposeful. Don't be so foolish to attribute to incompetence what can be attributed to profit motive.

At any rate, I'm not saying this swine flu event is deliberate. What I am saying is that this is afaik the first time we've been able to so accurately track the spread of a flu, and that all sorts of nifty things are being discovered, things which can and will be used for both good and bad purposes.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:32 PM on May 4, 2009


fff: Why do you say “Bayer's AIDS release was entirely, deliberately purposeful”? Your link doesn't support that— from my reading of that story, the release was entirely accidental, they simply didn't stop shipping infected medicines when they found out they were infected. Which is horrifying, yes, but still a far cry from moustache-twirlingly releasing a virus on purpose so you can then sell the medication for it.
posted by hattifattener at 7:52 PM on May 4, 2009


You should maybe bother yourself to become better informed by doing a simple search or two. Bayer deliberately chose to continue selling Factor VIII concentrate that was known to cause AIDS.

I am very surprised at the pushback I'm getting on this topic. Do you people really not know that huge corporations often act in the best interest of short-term profits, and often do so without regard to the cost of human lives? You know about Bhopal, don't you? Shell Oil's death squads? Monsanto?

What on earth makes you think I'm telling lies about Bayer?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:00 PM on May 4, 2009


I am very surprised at the pushback I'm getting on this topic. Do you people really not know that huge corporations often act in the best interest of short-term profits, and often do so without regard to the cost of human lives?

Of COURSE we know that businesses act in their own interests. But even THAT motivation makes "covering up an instance of incompetence" a far more likely outcome than "deliberately expending resources on testing something that may or may not work, and if it doesn't work and is exposed, could cause a public relations nightmare to boot". In the instance of Bayer choosing to continue to sell something that was known to cause AIDS, that's STILL a different situation from "Bayer DELIBERATELY DEVELOPED something that was known to cause AIDS", which is what you were implying. Discovering something was contaminated and continuing to sell it is not the same thing -- horrific, yes, but not the deliberate and calculated conspiracy that you seem to have been claiming took place.

What on earth makes you think I'm telling lies about Bayer?

I don't think YOU are telling lies about Bayer. I think someone has told YOU lies about Bayer.

Not that I'm saying they did the right thing -- more that, let's go after them for the CORRECT wrong thing. What they did is bad enough that we don't have to distract people by hanging all sorts of other things on it -- we shoot our own selves in the foot that way.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:07 PM on May 4, 2009


I bloody well did not imply Bayer developed something known to cause AIDS. And did you even bother to do some reading? Jesus. And where the fuck did I mention conspiracies? Did you even bother to read what I wrote?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:26 PM on May 4, 2009


I bloody well did not imply Bayer developed something known to cause AIDS. And did you even bother to do some reading?

....Oh, I did do some reading, dear. I read where you wrote THIS:

Bayer's AIDS release was entirely, deliberately purposeful. Don't be so foolish to attribute to incompetence what can be attributed to profit motive.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:32 PM on May 4 [+] [!]


"entirely, deliberately purposeful" sounds Bloody Well like a claim they intentionally developed it. And it's something YOU said.

So yeah, I did bother to read what you wrote, and so did all the other people in here who have been trying to "push back" on this. That's WHY we're trying to push back, because the things that we read that you wrote sound bloody well accusatory.

And it's more than just me who's drawn that conclusion from what you wrote, so if you DIDN'T mean to imply that, maybe the problem is not our failure to follow up on links, maybe it is in your failure to properly express whatever the hell it is you're trying to say.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:42 PM on May 4, 2009


Not to nitpick, but there seems not much difference between "Bayer developed something known to cause AIDS" and "Bayer releases HIV in blood products. And did so for a year or two after knowing the product was going to kill people."

I think the only point being made here is that we get that corporations protect profits. In Bayer's case, they reprehensibly covered up their error, but this isn't the same thing as "Bayer's AIDS release was entirely, deliberately purposeful." That's all.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:45 PM on May 4, 2009


On one hand I will acknowledge that the line between "actively covered up a gross mistake" and "actively sought to cause harm" is pretty, but on the other hand they're still different things.

Influenza A(H1N1) - update 15

5 May 2009 -- As of 06:00 GMT, 5 May 2009, 21 countries have officially reported 1124 cases of influenza A (H1N1) infection. 26 deaths.

Is there some informed speculation somewhere about why the early cases have such higher mortality? It can't be only that later cases are getting better treatment.

I think this is the #1 question of the entire pandemic. I think someone else already said the answer will basically net you a Nobel. It might be virus mutation. It might not.
posted by GuyZero at 7:12 AM on May 5, 2009


I read you to say that drug companies deliberately released viruses so that they could profit from selling the cures, five fresh fish.

And I don't think any of your links support that: the only one that's clearly deliberate is the Bayer one, and even then the most evident motive was simply to profit by not destroying existing stocks of drugs. It's a reach from there to saying that they did it to profit from treating HIV-infected patients.

The other cases support the idea even less: there's more evidence that the releases were accidental, and for some -- FMD -- there's no cure or remedy to profit from anyway.
posted by fightorflight at 7:13 AM on May 5, 2009


Bayer's AIDS release was entirely, deliberately purposeful. Don't be so foolish to attribute to incompetence what can be attributed to profit motive.
"entirely, deliberately purposeful" sounds Bloody Well like a claim they intentionally developed it.


I guess in your world "released" equals "developed."

Bayer deliberately continued selling their tainted blood products, fully aware that the product was causing AIDS in patients that used their product, for years after several governments had banned the product, to governments that weren't swift enough to recognize the danger. It was not a mistake: it was deliberate.

Damn right it's accusatory. It's also the truth.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:27 AM on May 5, 2009


10 Genes, Furiously Evolving
posted by homunculus at 8:49 AM on May 5, 2009


26 / 1124 = 2.3% death rate. It hasn't moved much since the weekend.

Now that I finally think I have a real death rate for flu (0.1%), I can say that's over 20x the normal death rate. That would still suggest, assuming we have a "normal" 36K deaths in the US from normal flu in the coming season, we'd have an additional 684K deaths from H1N1 in that season.

That would be, death-wise, on par with 1918. By percentage it'd be a lower overall percent kill rate (we have 3x as many people in this country now), but 684,000 people would be more than the total number of deaths from heart disease in 2005. IOW, it'd be the leading cause of death in 2010.

Yikes.
posted by dw at 1:13 PM on May 5, 2009


I guess in your world "released" equals "developed."

It ain't just my world, sunshine -- or have you not read all the other people who have been making exactly the same critiques as I have?

Maybe in YOUR world "negligently" means the same thing as "deliberately", but here where the rest of us live, they're different things. Both crimes, mind you, but both DIFFERENT crimes.

And as I said, accusing them of the WRONG crime doesn't actually bring them down, it just makes you look like a wing-nut.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:18 PM on May 5, 2009


They negligently developed it, then deliberately released it.

Okay? Okay.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:50 PM on May 5, 2009


EC, you clearly haven't the foggiest idea what you're talking about. Please, go read.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:58 PM on May 5, 2009


I will cede that my initial post, which did not mention Bayer at all, was poorly worded.
I can see how a pharmaceutical company might be very interested in having the ability to both create and release viruses, and run mop-up on remedying and relieving the ill effects. They've done it before and they'll do it again.
What "they" have done before and will do again is release viruses into the public sphere. I do not know of any pharmaceutical company that has done so in order to sell anti-viral medications or suchlike. My phrasing was clumsy.

Bayer enters the conversation only as an example of a pharmaceutical company that deliberately, purposefully released virus-laden product into the public sphere knowing fully well that it would kill people. And there are, of course, many examples of pharma companies publishing faked studies, falsefying data, and releasing inadequately-tested medicines to an unsuspecting public.

One needs to be willfully ignorant of history to argue that pharmaceutical companies do not deliberately choose to risk harming the public in their pursuit of profits.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:12 PM on May 5, 2009


The NAFTA flu
Agribusinesses are spreading their entire production line across the world. For example, the Thailand-based CP Group, now the world's fourth-largest poultry producer, operates poultry facilities in Turkey, China, Malaysia, Indonesia and the U.S. It has feed operations across India, China, Indonesia and Vietnam. Trade in live animals is also expanding in geographic extent.

These new configurations act as a cushion against the market's putative ability to correct corporate inefficiencies.

For instance, the CP Group operates joint-venture poultry facilities across China, producing 600 million of China's 2.2 billion chickens annually sold. When an outbreak of bird flu occurred in a farm operated by the CP group here in the province of Heilongjiang, Japan banned poultry from China. CP factories in Thailand were able to take up the slack and increase exports to Japan. In short, the CP Group profited from an outbreak of its own making. It suffered no ill effects from its own mistakes.

There is, then, another reason why the 'swine flu' tag fails. It detracts from an obvious point: pigs have very little to do with how influenza emerges.

They didn't organize themselves into cities of thousands of immuno-compromised pigs. They didn't artificially select out the genetic variation that could have helped reduce the transmission rates at which the most virulent influenza strains spread. They weren't organized into livestock ghettos alongside thousands of industrial poultry. They don't ship themselves thousands of miles by truck, train or air. Pigs do not naturally fly.

The onus must be placed on the decisions we humans made to organize them this way. And when we say "we," let's be clear--we're talking how agribusinesses have organized pigs and poultry.
Yep, the big corporations don't care as long as they make a buck.
posted by tellurian at 12:48 AM on May 6, 2009


I will cede that my initial post, which did not mention Bayer at all, was poorly worded.

Thank you. That's all that we ALL were trying to say.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:02 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


And yet you spent most of your efforts arguing that Bayer's selling of HIV-tainted blood product was an accidental oopsie, something that is both irrelevant to my initial post and plain ol' wrong.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:21 AM on May 6, 2009


Afghanistan's only pig quarantined in flu fear
posted by homunculus at 9:19 AM on May 6, 2009


And yet you spent most of your efforts arguing that Bayer's selling of HIV-tainted blood product was an accidental oopsie, something that is both irrelevant to my initial post and plain ol' wrong.

No. I was arguing that their selling of HIV-tainted blood product was a different thing from them tainting the blood product ON PURPOSE, which is what your intial accusation, because it was poorly worded, was in fact implying.

I will in turn grant you that you did not as such mention Bayer expressly in your initial post -- however, I would also point out that a better way to correct mine and other peoples' confusion about the matter would have probably been to examine what you had said and come to the conclusion that you might have worded things poorly, as we were all inquiring may have been the case, INSTEAD of continuing to stomp your little feeties and shriek "aren't you people reading what I'm writing" at us.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:19 AM on May 6, 2009


And now to try to bring this back around to swine flu -- the latest reports I've read state that H1N1 variants were showing up on farms a few years ago anyway, so this appears to be from a more organic and mundane source.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:27 AM on May 6, 2009


Oh, I did do some reading, dear.
It ain't just my world, sunshine.
…stomp your little feeties and shriek


You really need to lay off the condescension. It does not enhance your communication.

I did not accuse Bayer of tainting the blood on purpose. The references I provided are detailed and will fully inform you as to what they did do. Please go read them.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:01 PM on May 6, 2009


That's pretty rich. Is it out of style to just say "Whoops, yeah, I could've worded that better" instead of snapping* on people like this?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:26 PM on May 7, 2009


I mean, I realize you did say you could've worded it better, and thanks were given, and that was that. But then you just couldn't resist coming back for one last swipe. Why?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:31 PM on May 7, 2009


You really need to lay off the condescension. It does not enhance your communication.

I'll just flag and move on next time, then.

I did not accuse Bayer of tainting the blood on purpose. The references I provided are detailed and will fully inform you as to what they did do. Please go read them.

I feel that to even diginify this argument at this stage would be condescending, and you just asked me not to do that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:07 PM on May 7, 2009


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