Panic over the swine flu is starting to be tedious. I heard yesterday that a client who is a school bus driver saw about half the number of kids as normal going to school this week. Half? There’s that much panic out there over this?
Has no one noticed that despite the fact that there is considerable human traffic between Mexico and the United States, we’ve had one and only one death from this flu so far? In Mexico, there have been twelve deaths. Proportionally, that’s a much larger ratio. Still, it’s thirteen people dead in about a two-week period. Compare that to the biweekly mortality rate of, say, driving automobiles. Or owning swimming pools. Or smoking.
So here’s the thing. Do you get flu shots? Have you had a touch of the regular flu in the past couple of years? If so, there is a reasonable possibility you have already been vaccinated against swine flu. Not 100%, but an appreciable possibility and even if you’re not already immunized, chances are you’ll just suffer regular cold and flu symptoms and not, you know, die. Money quote:
In the flu vaccine — for more than the past 30 years — we’ve had an H1N1 strain in the standard flu vaccine that everyone gets… at least since 1976 when we had the last swine flu scare. So the theory goes that if you’ve had a vaccine that has a N1 in it… when you encounter a slightly different H1 (which is what the swine flu is) that you will be protected from severe illness and death, but not from getting a cold or a bad cold from that flu strain.
So calm down out there, people. Look, there’s certainly a potential for something serious here. That’s what all the warnings are about, so medical professionals can get ready, coordinate their resources, and prevent the bad stuff from happening. Certainly I agree that should be taken seriously.
But come on. This isn’t 1918, it’s 2009. We have the benefit of ninety years of science. We have the benefit of worldwide public health organizations. Vaccinations. Antibiotics and immune system boosters. Sanitation. And did I mention vaccinations?
Lots of Twelve people have died in Mexico. That’s because Mexico has only recently emerged as a middle-income, industrialized nation. It’s not yet free of its legacy as a third-world country. There is still a substantial underclass there who live in grinding poverty and it’s quite likely that those people have no access to any kind of medical care and live in very unsanitary conditions. I’m not saying that all of Mexico is like that and I’m very happy for the Mexicans (and for ourselves, because we benefit from it too) that those conditions are not the norm for most people there. Nor am I saying that we don’t have problems like that here in the States, either. These are the kinds of challenges that all nations face to varying degrees.
What I’m saying is that I strongly suspect that when the chips are down, we’ll find out that the people who have died from swine flu are overwhemingly from one of two categories of people: 1) those who have to live in unsanitary conditions without access to basic medical care, and 2) those who have eschewed vaccinations as a component of the health care they do receive.
What’s stunning to me is that despite the high degree of affluence and access to the benefits of science that we enjoy here in the States, there are people who voluntarily put themselves in class 2 and who so love their self-induced panic that they will spend the next several weeks putting themselves through mental gynmastics to rationalize away the quite obvious facts that this is an ordinary disease that can be prevented and controlled through simple, painless, and affordable vaccinations.
Simple lessons here. Don’t panic. Vaccinate. Send your kids to school.