Pharyngula

Where to go for swine flu information

There is some cause for worry in the current reports on the swine flu outbreak — while the possibility of a global pandemic is being raised, at this point it really is only a possibility. The accounts from Mexico are not reassuring, however.

Health officials reported that at least eight students at a private high school in New York City had “probable” swine flu. They also confirmed three new cases — two in Kansas and one in California — bringing the total number of confirmed U.S. cases to 11. The president of Mexico, where the outbreak has killed as many as 81 people, issued an order granting his government broad powers to isolate patients and question travelers. (…)

The virus, for which there is no vaccine for humans, has nearly brought Mexico City to a halt. Normally congested downtown streets in this city of 20 million were almost empty Saturday, and of the few people who ventured outside, many said they did so only out of necessity. Soldiers posted at subway stations handed out face masks to passersby from the back of armored vehicles. Some pedestrians covered their mouths and noses with scarves and rags.

Aetiology has an excellent summary that represents where we should be in our thinking right now — no need for panic, but it emphasizes the importance of research and monitoring.

In summary, this is a fast-developing story, and it will take much more investigation and field work to determine the true extent of the virus’s spread in the population; to figure out where it originated (one blog suggests a Mexican hog confinement according to some local Mexican papers, but that is conjecture at this point); how it jumped to humans; and how efficiently it’s transmitted. Whether this burns out or spreads worldwide, it certainly shows once again the importance of surveillance and monitoring of influenza strains, and demonstrates that improving our infrastructure due to concerns about H5N1 will benefit us whether that serotype, or another emergent strain, ends up being the next global influenza threat.

And if you want to keep track of the news yourself, the best place right now is Effect Measure, where Revere is giving regular updates from on informed perspective on the news and on emerging information from the CDC.

Comments

  1. #1 Steve LaBonne
    April 27, 2009

    And while we’re keeping informed, let’s not forget about this: http://www.thenation.com/blogs/thebeat/430261

  2. #2 Chris Davis
    April 27, 2009

    Actually, I’m feeling a bit, y’know, off at the mo.

    Just a cold, I’m sure.

  3. #3 Victor
    April 27, 2009

    I may do my part by eating a dead pig (possibly in chop form) as a sort of revenge.

  4. #4 cervantes
    April 27, 2009

    I must say that I believe far too much media space and time is being spent on this issue. It is actually very unlikely that this will develop into a major problem. Just saying that some tens of cases have been identified in the U.S. is silly — all of these cases have been nothing more than ordinary, mild, self-limiting illness. Yes, people get the flu. That’s normal. So what? Flu virus cannot survive in warm temperatures, so it is very unlikely at this time of year, with the weather as it is, that this will persist much longer in the northern hemisphere. (Mexico City, BTW, is much cooler than you probably think. It’s up in the mountains, and mornings this time of year are downright chilly.)

    Preparedness, surveillance, common sense are all important. But overhyping something that has yet to show itself as a real problem is potentially counterproductive, in many ways. We need to calm down and worry about more important things until and unless we have a reason to do otherwise. The professionals are on the case whether CNN and the Huffington Post are screaming and yelling about this or not.

  5. #5 Matthew Pickard
    April 27, 2009

    Where is McCarthy and Jim Carrey – the pro-disease crowd on this? Shouldn’t they be warning us to stay away from being vaccinated against the Swine virus if such a vaccination existed?

  6. #6 Richard Harris
    April 27, 2009

    I wonder how long before some crazy religious leader says that this is their god’s punishment for some activity that they don’t like?

  7. #7 'Tis Himself
    April 27, 2009

    A quote from the Effective Measure blog:

    …one big thing to know was emphasized by Acting CDC Director Richard Besser at the White House briefing yesterday: the influenza virus is highly unpredictable and our certain knowledge of it very scant. If you’ve seen one flu pandemic, you’ve seen one flu pandemic.
    If this outbreak becomes a sustained worldwide one — the definition of a pandemic — you should not expect it to be the same as any other pandemic. It might be like 1918, 1957, 1968 or just a bad flu season. Or not.

  8. #8 Glen Davidson
    April 27, 2009

    Nice time to point out the usefulness of evolution–although it’s clearly limited.

    I know, “microevolution.” Until it can be shown that macro and micro are not intimately related, and that essentially the same evidence points toward both (with IDiots arbitrarily denying the macroevolutionary language), and that ID had anything to do with our knowledge of “microevolution” (scare quotes are because they have no set definition for the term), I think it’s fair to pound away at the fact that it’s all evolution.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  9. #9 Mee
    April 27, 2009

    I wondered this during the bird flu TERRIFYING END OF WORLD SCENARIO.

    Is it at all likely, or even possible, that people could contract this strain of flu and not know it’s this strain of flu, and get over it?

    Basically, could someone get this swine flu, assume it’s regular flu, and just treat it like a regular flu? Is it just the people who are particularly badly affected by it who go for treatment, and then a percentage of that group that die?

    Because that would lead to gross overestimations of it’s danger. But I dunno if it’s even possible.

  10. #10 NoAstronomer
    April 27, 2009

    Don’t forget Web 2.0! New technology can help us keep abreast of this rapidly changing situation :

    http://www.xkcd.com/574/

  11. #11 cervantes
    April 27, 2009

    Revere is a top-notch epidemiologist, but we should keep in mind that he’s pretty much built Effect Measure on people’s worries about pandemic flu, so he has a bit of a vested interest. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I do think he tends to err a bit on the side of worry. “Just a bad flu season” is not the least that can happen — it’s entirely possible that this will go away and be hardly anything at all. I’m not betting on any outcome, and if it’s the apocalypse so be it. But I also don’t think there’s anything to be gained by hyping it. People are showing up at the ED already with the sniffles, and that does a lot more harm than good.

  12. #12 Kt D
    April 27, 2009

    Thank you for this entry. While no huge emergencies have presented themselves in the States yet (besides a few people feeling sick or pigs dying), there is a reasonable concern over whether this is going to spread worse than it has here. Mexico is a sad situation, in large part because it is where the influenza most likely originated. Thankfully, the U.S. has already started to send some aid down there. But I am sure it is still a huge mess. And the fact that there is no real vaccine for infected humans is a pretty scary thought.
    Similarly, the economy has been suffering today as stocks dropped after the national health emergency announcement. There has even been some hypothesizing on privatization concerns for the next few weeks. I watched an interesting summary video on all of this at newsy.com. It’s worth looking at:

    http://www.newsy.com/videos/the_world_on_swine_flu_alert/

  13. #13 H.H.
    April 27, 2009

    Steve LaBonne, the comments from conservatives on that article you posted are shocking. I say this as someone who often believes it is impossible to be shocked by anything they say anymore, yet continually find myself proven wrong. Check this out–What do budgeting for a health emergency and torture have in common? Give up? According to the loons, both save lives:

    I’d like to try to reiterate my point made earlier. To torture or not to torture? To spend $900 million or not? Torturing and spending $900 million both have the POTENTIAL to save thousands of lives. They even have the POTENTIAL to save millions of lives.

    But, neither can be guaranteed to save even one life. So what’s the difference? Is is that torture is immoral and spending $900 million is “science”? No. The only difference is that torture offends your sensibilites and spending $900 million of other peoples’ money does not.

    Silly me. I thought I opposed torture because it was immoral. Turns out it just offends my “sensibilites” (sic) and I like to spend other people’s money. Good lord, what is this country coming to?

  14. #14 Spiro Keat
    April 27, 2009

    Is it possible that the death rate in Mexico City is attributable to the damage caused to the respiratory systems of the populace by the atrocious air quality?

  15. #15 JBlilie
    April 27, 2009

    I guess they don’t think the H1N1 part of the flu vaccine from fall 2008 will help with this strain.

    Don’t travel to outbreak areas. And: frequent, thorough hand washing!

  16. #16 Nanahuatzin
    April 27, 2009

    On the good news, our goverment seens it has decided to act, but on the bad news, as ussual. they think citizens are children that need to be protected from the whole truth.

    The result is that a lot of people mustrust the info (som e of it good, some not) that comes from the goverment.

    The other part is our bureocratic health system, specially since the last two right wing goverments have tried to replace it with a system similar at the US…
    While not perfect. is very slow to respond, and currenlty low in money.

    Currently i have a web site where i try to put some info about the flu. Any input would be apreciated.

    http://mundo.paralax.com.mx

  17. #17 IBY
    April 27, 2009

    Yikes! I hope it is not as bad as it is presented it is going to be.

  18. #18 Whitecoat Tales
    April 27, 2009

    JBlilie: H1N1 is kind of a broad designation.

    The H1N1 swine flu strain we’re worried about now is potentially dangerous because it’s reassorted (has undergone antigenic shift) – it has some genes from other types of flu, so it’s new to our immune system.

    The H1N1 in the fall vaccine was of a more mundane variety.

  19. #19 SocraticGadfly
    April 27, 2009

    A Smithfield Foods CAFO hog farm appears to be the cause. Since we don?t know if live hogs were sent from this plant to the U.S., and many other things, I wouldn?t eat any Smithfield pork ?products? right now.

  20. #20 Greg F.
    April 27, 2009

    Speaking of swine flu coverage, there’s a meme spreading in the dark annals of the internet about a phantom swine flu vaccine and how it will either kill you or make you sick, loaded with anti-vax jargon:

    http://worldofweirdthings.com/2009/04/27/well-that-didnt-take-long/

    Yeah, I’m sticking to Effect Measure and CDC releases…

  21. #21 frog
    April 27, 2009

    So, basically what I see is that we know nothing. We know 150 have died in MC, but we have no idea yet about whether that’s out of 2000, or 200,000 people. No one has yet gone back and started testing old samples to see whether the outbreak is a week old, or we’ve all already caught it and this is just a tail end. The Mexican government has no transparency for these kinds of cases, so all info is simply swirling rumors.

    In short, either we shouldn’t even bother to talk about it, or we may all be dead in a week. This seems to be an excellent example of why transparency in government function isn’t just good, it’s essential.

    On a funny note fro the AP:

    Ultra-Orthodox Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman on Monday declared that Israel would call the new potentially deadly disease that has already struck two continents ?Mexico Flu,? rather than ?Swine Flu, as pigs are not kosher. ?We will call it Mexico flu. We won?t call it swine flu,? Litzman told a news conference on Monday, assuring the Israeli public that authorities were prepared to handle any cases.

    So viral names are now kosher or non-kosher? That’s what matters? The insanity of the religiously orthodox is always astounding.

  22. #22 Aphrodine
    April 27, 2009

    @frog #21:

    Not to mention the rather horrible implication that Mexicans are sub-human and the sole source of this strain.

  23. #23 Randomfactor
    April 27, 2009

    I love how reports of the outbreak in Mexicocity emphasize that priests are praying for divine intercession–to empty churches.

    Have they no faith? (I’m rather glad they don’t, actually…)

    As for the Israeli thing, it might help folks to report outbreaks if they don’t associate it with tref?

  24. #24 All Mi T
    April 27, 2009

    i wonder what is homeland security take on this , that is if they are keeping their eyes on the ball

    http://rawdawgb.blogspot.com/2009/04/keeping-our-eyes-on-ball.html

  25. #25 nomuse
    April 27, 2009

    I’ve been seeing that peculiar warning against vaccination also. Typical form: http://www.rense.com/general85/vacc.htm

    What is odd is that this Patricia Doyle seems to be an actual working parasitologist, with an interest in tropical diseases, and the other writings I have seen from her don’t have the same taint of anti-vax woo and general peculiarity of the Rense declaration.

    Anyone have more information?

  26. #26 Steve LaBonne
    April 27, 2009
  27. #27 Doug
    April 27, 2009

    Why did the psychics manage to miss this event as well?

  28. #28 Steve LaBonne
    April 27, 2009

    Not to mention the rather horrible implication that Mexicans are sub-human and the sole source of this strain.

    I’m afraid that kind of predictable racist asshattery is by no means confined to Israel: http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/quick_before_the_site_goes_down_again/

  29. #29 Paco
    April 27, 2009

    I’m writing from Mexico (not Mexico city), and people here are getting quite nervous, for starters, school is out at all levels, for the whole week until may 6 (next weekend is a long weekend so it fits nicely), all public events (sports, concerts, etc.) and gatherings are cancelled, handshakes and greeting by kiss is greatly discouraged, almost all people on the street are wearing facemasks and every store is sold out of hand sanitizers and desinfectants.
    Can you take a guess what organization was the very last one to acknowledge that they had to suspend their services? You guessed it, the catholic church, at first said that no way they were cancelling sunday mass (because according to them people need “spiritual guidance” in this time of crisis, yeah and they didn’t want to loose their weekly income), only to retract themselves the next day and looking like total jackasses.

  30. #30 K
    April 27, 2009

    Which makes me think of, “The Stand,” which makes me wonder why any story that tries to add religion to the plot begins to no longer make any sense, LOL

  31. #31 JJR
    April 27, 2009

    Some right-wingy blogs are pooh-poohing this whole story right now, which means probably it’s something to be concerned about.

    (I’m pro 2nd Amendment, so I sometimes hang out on gun rights forums and come into contact with much of Right Wingnutville, which I mostly ignore, but can’t help but observe in passing. I sometimes tweak their noses when they stray off topic, but mostly I don’t bother.)

  32. #32 raven
    April 27, 2009

    UPDATE – WHO may raise pandemic threat level over swine flu

    My note: They just did.

    We are seeing evolution in action right now. Everyone has seen the news about the new virus. It is a weird one, a novel reassortment of avian, swine, and human influenza.

    As someone at the CDC said, “Any predictions about future courses of flu epidemics usually go down in flames.”

    Whether this goes pandemic or dies out in the summer like most flu outbreaks is unknown. But it isn’t going away in days or weeks.

    The evolution reality deniers are about the get a lesson in evolution whether they like it or not. In a worse case scenario, many of them are going to get sick from a newly evolved virus. It is amazing how fundies can stare events like this in the eye, and then claim evolution is impossible.

    The antivaxxers might get a lesson in basic immunology as well. Wouldn’t want to be one during a pandemic.

    {Posted earlier but it belongs here.}

  33. #33 JD
    April 27, 2009

    Dear Jebus,

    Pleaze make teh bad bugz go way! I’ll prey hard fur teh bad bugz to float teh hellz.

    Ameen

  34. #34 Dahan
    April 27, 2009

    I’m not worried. I’m sure the Pope has it all under control.

  35. #35 Robert Thille
    April 27, 2009

    I’ve heard that this flu, like the 1918 one attacks the young/healthy. Can anyone here speak to this, or direct me to somewhat authoritative sites (CDC/NIH) with info about this?

  36. #36 raven
    April 27, 2009

    Ultra-Orthodox Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman on Monday declared that Israel would call the new potentially deadly disease that has already struck two continents ?Mexico Flu,? rather than ?Swine Flu, as pigs are not kosher. ?We will call it Mexico flu. We won?t call it swine flu,? Litzman told a news conference on Monday, assuring the Israeli public that authorities were prepared to handle any cases.

    I always wondered if Mexicans were kosher or not. I hope this means they aren’t actually stir frying them.

  37. #37 Noadi
    April 27, 2009

    Let’s just make this clear, calling it the “Mexico Flu” IS NOT RACIST. There is a very very long history of naming infectious diseases after their place of origin, examples being Ebola, Hanta, Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, etc. Actually in this case calling it Swine Flue is a absolutely terrible name as there are many strains of swine flu of which this is only one.

    Also flu does not die in warm weather, the peak of the 1918 Flu Pandemic was in August. Flu does do better in colder drier weather because it transmits better through the air in that sort of weather than it does in warm humid air. If the temperature really killed flu then we’d never see it in the tropics and we do. I should also point out that for half the planet it is currently Autumn going into winter.

  38. #38 The Science Pundit
    April 27, 2009
  39. #39 eddie
    April 27, 2009

    Y’know, if we were a superstitious lot, we’d be kicking ourselves for too many invocations of the ‘b’ word.
    Me? I stocked up on the stuff, just in case.

    Right now listening to Serpico by Prolapse. A fine retelling through the medium of punk.

  40. #40 mxh
    April 27, 2009

    @#5

    Where is McCarthy and Jim Carrey – the pro-disease crowd on this? Shouldn’t they be warning us to stay away from being vaccinated against the Swine virus if such a vaccination existed?

    Actually, I’ll be they’ll say something like, “See, we told you that vaccination doesn’t work.”

    Although if a vaccine does come out, I’d like to see them try to stop people from being vaccinated.

  41. #41 Alex Deam
    April 27, 2009

    I must say that I believe far too much media space and time is being spent on this issue. It is actually very unlikely that this will develop into a major problem.

    And you’re more qualified than the WHO to talk about this virus, why exactly?

  42. #42 raven
    April 27, 2009

    I must say that I believe far too much media space and time is being spent on this issue. It is actually very unlikely that this will develop into a major problem.

    Yeah really. The popular media need to spend more time on Britney’s next meltdown and what Michael Jackson is going to do next.

  43. #43 someGuy
    April 27, 2009

    Here’s some useful info concerning the history:
    http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol12no01/pdfs/05-0979.pdf

    There is, it seems, no way of predicting how the current strain of H1N1 will behave. We seem to lack basic data concerning why there were two waves in 1918 and then a third in 1919. And we don’t really know why the second wave was so devastating. The best that can be said about our current predicament is that at least we’ll know more about these events once we come out the other end, regardless of how relatively harmless or dreadful it turns out to be.

  44. #44 gwen
    April 27, 2009

    #3 You may want to eat poultry with that pig. It’s the combination that has caused the emergence of the new strain.
    Remember friends….hand washing and Purell are your friends to help slow the progression of this and most other easily transmitted diseases!

  45. #45 The Tim Channel
    April 27, 2009

    Notwithstanding the statement that flu get named by place origin and that we shouldn’t be racists to the Mexicans or the Gays, but it really is a form of SWINE FLU.

    It’s likely a byproduct of our agricultural industrial complex.

    It might kill us all. It might not. I’m going to smoke a joint and consider the possibility of it going either way.

    If it looks like it’s going to be a real world-thinning event, George Carlin will be sad that he missed it. In case of total societal meltdown reference the Georgia Guidestones for the necessary info to rebuild humanity.

    Enjoy.

  46. #46 frog
    April 27, 2009

    Let’s just make this clear, calling it the “Mexico Flu” IS NOT RACIST.

    Yes, but calling it Mexico flu because “swine are not kosher” is. Are all Mexicans kosher, or just Jewish ones? What about circumcised but non-Jewish Mexicans? Do hot-peppers make Mexicans more or less kosher?

  47. #47 Fred the Hun
    April 27, 2009

    cervantes @ 4,

    It is actually very unlikely that this will develop into a major problem.

    Are you familiar with Nassim Taleb’s theory of highly unlikely “Black Swan” events?

  48. #48 David
    April 27, 2009

    We should as Jenny McCarthy for her expert help on this…the CDC cannot be relied upon.

  49. #49 Sherry
    April 27, 2009

    Wash your hands VERY frequently.

    Eat bacon.

    Wash your hands.

    That is all.

  50. #50 chezjake
    April 27, 2009

    @ #19

    There is no danger from eating pork.

    From the CDC: “Can people catch swine flu from eating pork?
    No. Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. You can not get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160°F kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.”
    http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/key_facts.htm

  51. #51 David
    April 27, 2009

    We need Jenny McCarthy’s help on this one.

  52. #52 Alex Deam
    April 27, 2009

    I must say that I believe far too much media space and time is being spent on this issue. It is actually very unlikely that this will develop into a major problem.

    And you’re more qualified than the WHO to talk about this virus, why exactly?

  53. #53 Alex Deam
    April 27, 2009

    Wash your hands VERY frequently.

    Eat bacon.

    Wash your hands.

    That is all.

    Until someone with the flu sneezes over your bacon…

  54. #54 Alex Deam
    April 27, 2009

    Let’s just make this clear, calling it the “Mexico Flu” IS NOT RACIST.

    Maybe not, but it is poor English. :P

  55. #55 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 27, 2009

    Here’s hoping that this round of swine flu is as innocuous as the strain that popped up during the Ford administration.

  56. #56 robotaholic
    April 27, 2009

    Actually the threat level has just been raised to level 4 (out of 6) and it’s killed 140 ppl so far- so it is starting to become concerning.

  57. #57 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 27, 2009

    Flu appears to have many other hosts. Patricia, if it hits your area, keep away from the pullet patrol, or at least wear gloves.

  58. #58 SocraticGadfly
    April 27, 2009

    @Cervantes: We have cases here in Texas, just about all of which is hotter than Mexico City.

    Try again.

  59. #59 frog
    April 27, 2009

    FredTheHun: Are you familiar with Nassim Taleb’s theory of highly unlikely “Black Swan” events?

    Yup, just remember that what we care about are two ratios, the infection rate and the death rate. Ratios of random numbers are not normally distributed, despite the fact that biology journals will publish standard errors on such data (!!!).

    It’s pretty damn tough to do risk analysis on data that doesn’t fall into nice bell curves — it’s even worse when folks do it not realizing that fact (example: credit default swaps were done assuming Gaussian tales on the distributions — Taleb made a shit-load o’ cash on that one).

    It’ll all be hand-waving until enough data is available for the epidemiologist to actually figure out real networks of transmission.

  60. #60 Patricia, OM
    April 27, 2009

    Thanks Nerd, I’ll remember that. My birds have all had the vaccine for New Castle disease, but that probably wouldn’t help much with this new strain. :(

  61. #61 Screechy Monkey
    April 27, 2009

    I don’t have the swine flu, but I do have bacon fever!

    (Yes, I know, I’m like the 10th person to make that joke.)

  62. #62 Fred the Hun
    April 27, 2009

    It’s pretty damn tough to do risk analysis on data that doesn’t fall into nice bell curves

    Which is probably why it is sooo damn tempting to make the data fit those nice bell shaped curves ;-)

    Point taken, that it is both the infection rate and the death rate that we need to keep an eye on. I agree it is all hand-waving until enough data becomes available, certainly nothing indicates any need for panic at the present time. Though complancency wouldn’t be quite appropriate either.

  63. #63 Marcus
    April 27, 2009

    Two words. Zombie Apocalypse.
    That is all.

    Well that and CDC is on twitter, so the super paranoid can get updates sent straight to their cellphones.

  64. #64 No Guy in the Sky
    April 27, 2009

    I hear the Dept. of Health is recruiting baptist pig farmers to come to New York. They are going to call the Swine Flu in. “Suey! S U E Y !” Hopefully with enough farmers they can get the little buggers coraled up and end this pandemic before it starts. :-D

    http://noguyinthesky.blogspot.com/

  65. #65 Fred the Hun
    April 27, 2009

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/med_swine_flu

    Though the MSM seems to be getting a wee bit worried…

    MEXICO CITY ? The World Health Organization raised its global alert level on the spreading swine flu virus Monday, but stopped short of declaring a global emergency ? even as the U.S. said it was acting as if the outbreak would grow into a full pandemic.

    The United States advised Americans against most travel to Mexico and ordered stepped up border checks in neighboring states. The European Union health commissioner advised Europeans to avoid nonessential travel both to Mexico and parts of the United States.

    The suspected number of deaths rose to 149 in Mexico, the epicenter of the outbreak with nearly 2,000 people believed to be infected.

    The number of U.S. cases doubled to 40, the result of further testing at a New York City school, although none was fatal. Other U.S. cases have been reported in Ohio, Kansas, Texas and California. Worldwide there were 73 cases, including six in Canada, one in Spain and two in Scotland.

    I makes one wonder if there might not be some agenda being pushed behind the scenes for political purposes.

  66. #66 2 cents
    April 27, 2009

    A good site for tracking international flu cases is healthmap.org (sorry, don’t know how to do linkies). Click on influenza in the left side and the map will show all reported flu cases.

    Some other sites that may be helpful are crofsblog, pandemic chronicle, demfromct.dailykos, and afludiary.

    As for the flu being more dangerous in people aged 20 to 50:
    1. the immune system is at its peak during those years
    2. when under attack, the immune system releases cytokines
    3. the cytokines don’t know when to shut off, so there is
    a “cytokine storm”. IOW, the immune system attacks itself, causing severe complications and death.

    It’s the equivalent of having a kitchen fire. The fire dept. puts the fire out but continues to pour water all over the house. When they are finished, what was originally a small amount of damage has become a thoroughly ruined house.

    The 1918 flu (called the Spanish flu) first struck in the spring. It receded, then came roaring back in late summer. We cannot afford to be complacent about this outbreak.

  67. #67 Noadi
    April 27, 2009

    Still not seeing how calling it Mexico Flu could be racist when the objection is to the fact pigs aren’t kosher. That would make it species-ist since it’s a reaction against associating the disease with pigs not with the intent to denigrate Mexicans.

  68. #68 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 27, 2009

    Until someone with the flu sneezes over your bacon…

    Flu or not, someone sneezes on my bacon and there’s going to be trouble.

  69. #69 CalGeorge
    April 27, 2009

    Why is it attacking Catholic schools?

    St. Mel’s Catholic School in the Sacramento suburb of Fair Oaks .

    St. Francis Preparatory in NYC.

  70. #70 Noadi
    April 27, 2009

    CalGeorge: How many public schools do you know of that can afford to send students on a trip to the next state let alone another country? Private schools have more money, they also have kids who are not known for taking things like handwashing seriously. Plus being a religious school the trips probably involved doing charity work that put them in close contact with people who might have been sick or maybe even with pigs if the work involved farms. Just brings together a whole bunch of risk factors.

  71. #71 H.H.
    April 27, 2009

    Wait, so Yakov Litzman declared that Israel would call the disease “Mexico Flu” because pigs aren’t kosher? Why would that matter? Wouldn’t they want to call it swine flu since it supports their superstition that pigs are “unclean” animals? Or is he saying that Jews who are infected with a virus that incubates in pigs are violating kosher laws? If so, that’s freaking hilarious.

  72. #72 frog
    April 27, 2009

    Still not seeing how calling it Mexico Flu could be racist when the objection is to the fact pigs aren’t kosher.

    But Mexicans are?

  73. #73 Alex Deam
    April 27, 2009

    But Mexicans are?

    Are Mexicans unclean? Well, there’s your answer.

  74. #74 Randomfactor
    April 27, 2009

    Why is it attacking Catholic schools?

    And Mexico itself is largely a Catholic country…though others are more religious than MX.

  75. #75 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 27, 2009

    Are Mexicans unclean? Well, there’s your answer.

    WTF

  76. #76 SocraticGadfly
    April 27, 2009

    NYT fluffing Obama on swine flu? It dropped a paragraph from the original version of its story on Obama?s response to the situation.

    I cited this NYT story yesterday, in a story about parliamentary government, quoting the last graf:

    The outbreak in the United States comes before President Obama has his full health team in place. His nominee for health secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, has not yet been confirmed by the Senate, nor has the woman he selected to Food and Drug Administration, Margaret Hamburg, a former New York City health commissioner. Mr. Obama has not yet named anyone to run the Centers for Disease Control or the National Institutes of Health.

    I then responded: Why do people who should know better continue to defend the horribly antiquated Constitution of the United States?

    Today, though, that graf is gone. Fluffing Obama?

  77. #77 nmcvaugh
    April 27, 2009

    Apparently the source of the outbreak has been identified, though it seems to be too late to do any good.

  78. #78 Lilith
    April 27, 2009

    I suspect the reason for changing the name from Swine Flu to Mexico Flu is to avoid people who keep kosher from becoming complacent about the chances of them contracting the disease. It would be easy for some people to start thinking ‘I don’t touch pigs, so I’m safe’, and not taking sensible hygiene precautions such as being extra careful about thoroughly washing hands.

  79. #79 'Tis Himself
    April 27, 2009

    I then responded: Why do people who should know better continue to defend the horribly antiquated Constitution of the United States?
    Today, though, that graf is gone. Fluffing Obama?

    No, just getting rid of a non sequitur that doesn’t have anything to do with swine flu.

  80. #80 keri
    April 27, 2009

    #78, Lilith: I immediately came to the same conclusion about Israel using “Mexico Flu” and was surprised that so many people didn’t reach that same conclusion. I’m hoping there were invisible sarcams tags on their comments. :/

    Also, I can’t say that I’m surprised that the schools are Catholic ones. It’s quite common for Catholic high schools to send groups of students to poor countries on “mission” trips over spring or summer break. Mexico is popular because it’s so easy to get to.

  81. #81 Patricia, OM
    April 27, 2009

    Somebody sneezes in my bacon, they’re gonna have egg all over their face.

  82. #82 Rorschach
    April 27, 2009

    I’ve heard that this flu, like the 1918 one attacks the young/healthy. Can anyone here speak to this, or direct me to somewhat authoritative sites (CDC/NIH) with info about this?

    As mentioned above,the theory is that a fully developed and functional immune system can “overreact” and cause major damage to the host.The H1N1 swine flu seems to be causing death mainly by causing a fulminant pneumonia,from what Ive been told.
    BTW,the 1918 flu death toll was so high because many people died of secondary bacterial infections,mainly Haemophilus influenzae ,against which many people are vaccinated these days.

  83. #83 SocraticGadfly
    April 27, 2009

    @Tis Himself… no “non sequitur.” If we had parliamentary government, Obama would have his Cabinet, or ministries, already in place.

    In the age of A. Computers and B. Nuclear Weapons (and now C. Mass Travel between Countries potentially spreading diseases), we have the most antiquated documents of governance of any advanced democracy, or some not totally advanced ones. It’s stupid.

    Beyond that (and, yes, not directly relevant to the swine flu, although the reason above IS relevant) is the fact that it makes it easier for the two-party duopoly, but that’s a whole nother subject.

  84. #84 frog
    April 27, 2009

    Lillith: I suspect the reason for changing the name from Swine Flu to Mexico Flu is to avoid people who keep kosher from becoming complacent about the chances of them contracting the disease.

    But they do worry about touching Mexicans? ???? What percentage of the Israeli population is Mexican? I can just see it now “Well, I’m safe from ‘Swine Flu’ because I’m kosher — but I’m really worried about this Mexico flu coming from the opposite side of the planet’.

    Do you people even listen to your own comments?

    No — they did it because they’re fuckin’ nuts. Any racism is the soft racism of simply not considering “those people” as people — but it’s clearly not at the core of the issue — even if it’s a funny example of how religious stupidity propagates to stupidity about everything (aka, paralleling “swine” and “Mexico” in a statement).

    The point is that they’re thinking with their prayer books instead of their brains. The signifier is more important than the significand; these people worry more about the word “swine” than the word “flu”, since the former might pollute their home (the word is as real as an actual boar in their home), but the latter is only a real organism infecting their real bodies.

  85. #85 kaje
    April 27, 2009

    Sure it’s safe to eat pork; but if it’s true that a Smithfield CAFO is to blame for the outbreak then I’d abstain from throwing any money at that industry. If you must eat pork, at least make sure it doesn’t come from a fucking CAFO.

  86. #86 Ichthyic
    April 27, 2009

    It’s pretty damn tough to do risk analysis on data that doesn’t fall into nice bell curves

    It’s pretty acceptable (well, at least for the last 25 years anyway) to utilize non-parametric statistics to analyze non-normally distributed data sets.

    Is the CDC behind the times on standard statistical models?

  87. #87 Ichthyic
    April 27, 2009

    No — they did it because they’re fuckin’ nuts. Any racism is the soft racism of simply not considering “those people” as people — but it’s clearly not at the core of the issue — even if it’s a funny example of how religious stupidity propagates to stupidity about everything (aka, paralleling “swine” and “Mexico” in a statement).

    nobody thinks it could have been a tag to mark its country of origin?

    just curious.

  88. #88 Rorschach
    April 27, 2009

    nobody thinks it could have been a tag to mark its country of origin?

    Its also a bit unfair anyway to blame it on pigs alone,the poor things are just the mixing bowl for the human and avian flu genes.Mexican flu makes much more sense to me.

  89. #89 Sauceress
    April 27, 2009

    #19 SocraticGadfly 5:12 PM

    A Smithfield Foods CAFO hog farm appears to be the cause. Since we don?t know if live hogs were sent from this plant to the U.S., and many other things, I wouldn?t eat any Smithfield pork ?products? right now.

    and…
    #50 chezjake 6:34 PM

    There is no danger from eating pork…….properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe.

    I wouldn’t be buying/eating any Smithfield products counting on “properly handled and cooked pork and pork products”.

    America’s top pork producer churns out a sea of waste that has destroyed rivers, killed millions of fish and generated one of the largest fines in EPA history. Welcome to the dark side of the other white meat.
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/12840743/porks_dirty_secret_the_nations_top_hog_producer_is_also_one_of_americas_worst_polluters

    From the link…

    Smithfield estimates that its total sales will reach $11.4 billion this year. So prodigious is its fecal waste, however, that if the company treated its effluvia as big-city governments do — even if it came marginally close to that standard — it would lose money. So many of its contractors allow great volumes of waste to run out of their slope-floored barns and sit blithely in the open, untreated, where the elements break it down and gravity pulls it into groundwater and river systems. Although the company proclaims a culture of environmental responsibility, ostentatious pollution is a linchpin of Smithfield’s business model.

    ….The floors are slatted to allow excrement to fall into a catchment pit under the pens, but many things besides excrement can wind up in the pits: afterbirths, piglets accidentally crushed by their mothers, old batteries, broken bottles of insecticide, antibiotic syringes, stillborn pigs — anything small enough to fit through the foot-wide pipes that drain the pits. The pipes remain closed until enough sewage accumulates in the pits to create good expulsion pressure; then the pipes are opened and everything bursts out into a large holding pond….

    From Smithfield’s point of view, the problem with this lifestyle is immunological. Taken together, the immobility, poisonous air and terror of confinement badly damage the pigs’ immune systems. They become susceptible to infection, and in such dense quarters microbes or parasites or fungi, once established in one pig, will rush spritelike through the whole population. Accordingly, factory pigs are infused with a huge range of antibiotics and vaccines, and are doused with insecticides. Without these compounds — oxytetracycline, draxxin, ceftiofur, tiamulin — diseases would likely kill them. Thus factory-farm pigs remain in a state of dying until they’re slaughtered. When a pig nearly ready to be slaughtered grows ill, workers sometimes shoot it up with as many drugs as necessary to get it to the slaughterhouse under its own power. As long as the pig remains ambulatory, it can be legally killed and sold as meat.

    The drugs Smithfield administers to its pigs, of course, exit its hog houses in pig shit. Industrial pig waste also contains a host of other toxic substances: ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, cyanide, phosphorous, nitrates and heavy metals. In addition, the waste nurses more than 100 microbial pathogens that can cause illness in humans, including salmonella, cryptosporidium, streptocolli and girardia. Each gram of hog shit can contain as much as 100 million fecal coliform bacteria.

    Let’s not forget..

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/24991066/bushs_final_fu/print

    BIG AGRICULTURE Factory farms are getting two major Christmas presents from Bush this year. Circumventing the Clean Water Act, the administration has approved last-minute regulations that will allow animal waste from factory farms to seep, unmonitored, into America’s waterways. The regulation leaves it up to the farms themselves to decide whether their pollution is dangerous enough to require them to apply for a permit. “It’s the fox guarding the henhouse ? all too literally,” says Pope. The water rule goes into effect December 22nd, and a related rule in the works would exempt factory farms from reporting air pollution from animal waste.

  90. #90 frog
    April 27, 2009

    Icthyic: It’s pretty acceptable (well, at least for the last 25 years anyway) to utilize non-parametric statistics to analyze non-normally distributed data sets.

    I assume CDC knows what they’re doing — at least I hope so. On the other hand, 9 out of 10 biology journals do accept parametric statistics on non-normally distributed data sets. Why? Because most biology ($$$ wise) is molecular biology, and most molecular biologists are close to innumerate.

    But I’ve always found that psychology, epidemiology and “field” biologies know how to do stats — therefore, it’s safe to assume that the CDC knows what they’re doing. It’s always been statistically acceptable to do correct statistics; but in certain specialties, no one seems to know how to do it. What they usually tell me is either that “everyone does it this way,” or even worse, “the software does it this way”.

    nobody thinks it could have been a tag to mark its country of origin?

    Did’ja read the quote? Of course it was a tag to mark its country of origin — but it also was an explicitly parallel clause, unintentionally claiming that, unlike swine, Mexicans are kosher. That’s the silliness of the ultra-orthodox — by placing the kosher/tref division at the center of everything, they inevitably make stupid statements since they appear incapable of structuring their thoughts any other way.

  91. #91 Katkinkate
    April 27, 2009

    Posted by: Robert Thille @ 35 “I’ve heard that this flu, like the 1918 one attacks the young/healthy. Can anyone here speak to this, or direct me to somewhat authoritative sites (CDC/NIH) with info about this?”

    I’ve heard the same. I read in an article published during the latest avian flu scare a suggestion that the healthier immune systems of people in their prime reacted more intensely in producing the usual fluids and they drowned in the fluids produced by their lungs, because they couldn’t expel the fluids quickly enough. It would be good to try to prevent any respiratory infections getting into your lungs by keeping your throat and chest warm.

    Someone above pointed out that USA is probably not under threat because they are heading into their Summer and flu is a disease of cold weather. The southern hemisphere is now heading into our Winter and so if the disease is going to become a pandemic we’ll probably see it develop first and pass it to you in 6 months time. OK?

  92. #92 SocraticGadfly
    April 28, 2009

    @ Sauceress #89: We also don’t know how many of Smithfield’s Mexican hogs were imported to our side of the border, nor do we know how much “dirtier” a Mexican CAFO may be, or not, than a US one. And, that’s only a couple of unknowns. That’s why I posted the link to my blog at #19.

    I don’t know the exact latency of swine flu, but, let’s just say some Smithfield hogs did get imported here from Mexico. Could be infecting American CAFO hoglots right now, possibly?

    Also on antibiotics with swine, the “remaining in a state of dying” hogs become, theoretically, more vulnerable to a viral disease like swine flu that the antibiotics don’t touch.

  93. #93 raven
    April 28, 2009

    Lillith: I suspect the reason for changing the name from Swine Flu to Mexico Flu is to avoid people who keep kosher from becoming complacent about the chances of them contracting the disease.

    Naw. We dealt with and are still watching avian, bird flu. No one has decided to call it Chinese, Vietnamese, Asian, or Indonesian flu.

    Some religious fanatics think swine is one of those bad words like fuck, vagina, or breast and doesn’t want to say, swine flu. To them it is like calling it penis or vagina flu.

    It makes no sense to someone not raised in a tradition where pigs and shellfish are seriously evil.

    I don’t think they believe Mexicans are kosher and eligible for stir fries. At least I hope not.

  94. #94 raven
    April 28, 2009

    Someone above pointed out that USA is probably not under threat because they are heading into their Summer and flu is a disease of cold weather. The southern hemisphere is now heading into our Winter and so if the disease is going to become a pandemic we’ll probably see it develop first and pass it to you in 6 months time. OK?

    That is a worse case scenario. It could happen.

    This flu seems to be not too lethal. The Mexicans are saying, 150 dead maybe out of 2,000 cases. No way in hell are those numbers right. The mortality for sure, but the number of cases is probably 2 orders of magnitude higher. In a poor third world country like Mexico with a corresponding medical system, people don’t go to the hospital with the flu unless they are very sick. In the US, the cases seem to be mild, probably the norm.

    We will probably do OK with our first world medical system, drugs, vaccines, supportive care, and so on.

    If it gets into the poor areas, India, Asia, Africa, South America, that is when it will go seriously pandemic. The general health status of the population is variable and often low and that makes a huge difference in morbidity and mortality. Just imagine this flu in Afghanistan or Somalia.

    A worse case scenario would be spread into the third world and into the southern hemisphere flu season of their winter. And coming back north in the fall.

    Or, between the summer and fast epidemiological measures, it might just die out and that will be it.

    As the CDC pointed out, if you’ve seen one pandemic, you’ve seen one pandemic. They are all different and no one knows what will happen.

  95. #95 BABH
    April 28, 2009

    There is some cause for worry in the current reports on the swine flu outbreak

    There is never good cause to worry about anything. Better to make rational decisions based on the best information available. Then remain open to the possibility that you made the wrong decision.

    See? Nothing left to worry about.

  96. #96 Bacopa
    April 28, 2009

    I get all my pork products from an old black dude out in Waller County. He buys feral hogs from rednecks who hunt the pigs year round as the State govt classifies them as a feral invasive species. The hunters carry few guns as local law prohibit public diacharge and guns are banned on local flood control projects. They use dogs, lassos, improvised spears. Two packs of dogs, actually. The curs are long legged scent-hounds, similar to foxhounds, which locate the pigs but are too timid to attack them, and pitbull/retriever mixes which respond to the baying of the curs and are not afraid to close in on the pigs. The pigs are lassoed or speared, and if worse comes to worse, shot in spite of the gun ban.

    Feral pork shoulder is good eating if cured in a slightly acidic brine with mustard seedvand parsley.

  97. #97 nanahuatzin
    April 28, 2009

    SocraticGadfly @ 19
    A Smithfield Foods CAFO hog farm appears to be the cause. Since we

    So far the Mexican Goverment has denied any asociation form this incident with the curren outbreak… but:

    April 6
    Veratect reported local health officials declared a health alert due to a respiratory disease outbreak in La Gloria, Perote Municipality, Veracruz State, Mexico. Sources characterized the event as a “strange” outbreak of acute respiratory infection, which led to bronchial pneumonia in some pediatric cases. According to a local resident, symptoms included fever, severe cough, and large amounts of phlegm. Health officials recorded 400 cases that sought medical treatment in the last week in La Gloria, which has a population of 3,000; officials indicated that 60% of the town?s population (approximately 1,800 cases) has been affected. No precise timeframe was provided, but sources reported that a local official had been seeking health assistance for the town since February….

    Local health officials had implemented several control measures in response to the outbreak. A health cordon was established around La Gloria. Officials launched a spraying and cleaning operation that targeted the fly suspected to be the disease vector. State health officials also implemented a vaccination campaign against influenza, although sources noted physicians ruled out influenza as the cause of the outbreak. Finally, officials announced an epidemiological investigation that focused on any cases exhibiting symptoms since 10 March.

    I can hardly believe there is no conection… So it is no surprise lot of people do not trust the goverment…

  98. #98 nanahuatzin
    April 28, 2009

    raven @94

    This flu seems to be not too lethal. The Mexicans are saying, 150 dead maybe out of 2,000 cases. No way in hell are those numbers right. The mortality for sure, but the number of cases is probably 2 orders of magnitude higher.

    I do not trust those figures either. I kwnow some doctors from the hospital… and they are frankly in panic…

    So fat the authorities can not explain why the mortality figure in Mexico is so high, compared with the same illness in other countries.

    Either there is an unknown factor or the figures are wrong.

    For example, we have been told, that the current current influenza vacine does not work, but the goverment officials said that the hign number of victims between young adults is because most children and old people had been vaccinated against influenza.

    ughhh…

    I understand that the epidemology is complicated… but somehow it does not match…

  99. #99 raven
    April 28, 2009

    Either there is an unknown factor or the figures are wrong.

    Most likely the number of infected cases is wrong. Mortality numbers are easy, you have a dead body.

    It is much harder to figure out how many flu cases there are that didn’t die. Especially if most cases look like seasonal flu, a mild, self limiting disease. The Mexican government can’t even type this strain, they had to send it to the CDC.

    From the locations in Mexico where it has been reported, it seems to be all over the place down there. I’m guessing the number of people who got and recovered is much higher than 2,000.

    General health status makes a huge difference as well. In the USA, measles kills 3/1000 children. In some African outbreaks it has been as high as 280/1000. Malnutrition and existing health conditions like malaria, hepatitis, and TB can make a big difference.

  100. #100 Kal-El
    April 28, 2009


    Most likely the number of infected cases is wrong. Mortality numbers are easy, you have a dead body.

    Either that, or as someone above mentioned was the case in 1919, there is a secondary infection in the Mexico cases, perhaps unvaccinated HIB — Haemophilus influenzae. Or, the people in Mexico are unusually susceptible, perhaps due to naïve immune systems (? Seems unlikely) But I agree, either the numbers are way off or there is some other factor that has to be identified. The other possibility, of course, is that the Mexico patients are getting truly rotten care, but I’m not ready to come down on the Mexican health system that hard…yet.

  101. #101 Tsu Dho Nimh
    April 28, 2009

    nanahuatzin said, “So far the authorities can not explain why the mortality figure in Mexico is so high, compared with the same illness in other countries. Either there is an unknown factor or the figures are wrong.

    Simple: they are counting different things. The USA is counting ALL the clusters they can find, even if the people did not go to the hospitals. Mexico, according to the press releases, is only counting the severe cases they know about – the ones in the hospital.

    In the USA, the mortality for influenza – among those who are sick enough to be hospitalized – is 7 to 10%. That’s close to what Mexico is reporting.

    Testing the close contacts of the people who were hospitalized in Mexico will give a better idea of how widespread the virus is. If I read the press releases right, the CDC, WHO, and the Mexican health agency are setting up to do that right now.

  102. #102 Colonel Molerat
    April 28, 2009

    How bad does it have to get before the schools close? I work in one, and could do with some time off; particularly since I’ve had this horrible fever and hacking cough.

  103. #103 Calie
    April 28, 2009

    Some students from that very high school in NY visited my campus last Friday. Sigh.

  104. #104 scooter
    April 28, 2009

    #91

    Robert Thille @ 35 “I’ve heard that this flu, like the 1918 one attacks the young/healthy. Can anyone here speak to this, or direct me to somewhat authoritative sites (CDC/NIH) with info about this?”

    There was something peculiar about that strain that caused extreme allergic reactions in I believe 15% of those infected. The immune system went crazy and destroyed the body in less than 24 hours from the first signs of infection.

    Victims bled profusely from all orifices including eye sockets, and cause of death was failure of most anatomical systems simultaneously.

    This reaction occurred mostly among those in the ‘prime’ of life, 18 to 30 in good health with strong immune systems.

    For everybody else, it simply ran it’s course with the regular yearly flu-type symptoms.

    It killed more people than WWI, which was an outbreak of mass stoopidity going on at the same time.

  105. #105 Jérôme ^
    April 28, 2009

    This is totally off-topic, but there are some creationist news that might be of interest.

    First, the inevitable AiG reaction to Puijilia Darwini. As fun as expected.

    « 1. Could Puijila actually be part of the otter kind? […]
    2. Alternatively, if scientists showed Pujilla to be distinctly pinniped (i.e., definitely not an otter), it could be a member of an original created kind that was the ancestor of all pinnipeds today. »

    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2009/04/25/news-to-note-04252009

    Second, there *might* be an actual creationist scientist, and (shamed as I am to admit it) he’s French. He was actually part of the team that worked on the cow genome.

    Summary (in French):

    http://sciences.blogs.liberation.fr/home/2009/04/ladn-bovin-décrypté-par-un-créationniste.html

  106. #106 Porco Dio
    April 28, 2009

    go to church… i heard that geezuz is offering protection against the flu if you just send your money…

  107. #107 Christophe Thill
    April 28, 2009

    From pigs to cows now…

    The recent decoding of the cow genome (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/324/5926/478)is great news. But much weirder is the news than a distinguished member of the research tem, French geneticist André Eggen is, and calls himself, a young Earth creationist. He is the leader of a group called “Au commencement” (In the beginning) and regularly holds seminars on biblical topics. And he’s very much liked by Answers in Genesis (http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v20/i4/french.asp). There’s currently a small scandal around this man in the French academic circles. Many say he can’t possibly represent the INRA (National institute for agronomic research) for which he works; neither can he properly complete his mission to scientifically educate the public.

  108. #108 Colonel Molerat
    April 28, 2009

    What exactly is the creationist opinion on virus evolution? I’m assuming it’s some varation of the micro-not-macro-evolution argument – do any of the big creationist think-tanks try to deny virus evolution completely?
    I also (if the situation gets very bad) want the ‘what does Jenny McCarthy think?’ movement to grow rapidly, to the point where she would lose face by taking a vaccine, but quite possibly die otherwise. No weasling out with ‘these vaccines are okay’. That would be a win-win situation. At least as far as suffering a major flu pandemic could be called ‘winning’…

  109. #109 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 28, 2009

    I’m assuming it’s some varation of the micro-not-macro-evolution argument

    Bingo. Adaptation not evolution.

  110. #110 Fred the Hun
    April 28, 2009

    Porco Dio…eh? I’m imagining a little suckling pig impaled on a cross over an open fire and a bunch of Romans standing around with their mouths watering in anticipation. If you add some wine that would make for a pretty decent partaking of the flesh… none of this bland cracker communion crap!

  111. #111 IST
    April 28, 2009

    @ Greg> Nah, it’s not foodborne, it’s the flu. Respiratory.. ya know, has to be breathed? Munch away on all the Smithfield or whoever else’s pork products you please. I wouldn’t go hang out at any hog farms, however.

  112. #112 TX CHL Instructor
    April 28, 2009

    Ok, your mother *was* right about the hand-washing bit. So, just do it. Warm soapy water several times a day, and with a bit of luck, you might just opt out of this particular ‘epidemic’. Cheap, simple-minded, and effective way to reduce the spread of all kinds of infectious diseases.

    But, OH NOESWE’REHAVINGASWINEFLUEPIDEMIC!!!!! It’s time to panic and run around like headless chickens, don’cha know? If I was really cynical, I might think this was just a distraction for this administration’s latest attempts to trash the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 10th amendments to the COTUS (http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-45), but no mater how cynical I get, I just can’t keep up. One party wants to trash amendments 1, 2, 4, and 10, and the other wants to trash 1, 6, & 8. At least they both agree that “Freedom of Speech” is really “Freedom to Agree with Us”.

    Meanwhile, more than 1000 children die of malaria every day. Oh, and before you run to see your doctor with a runny nose and achy fever, consider that about 50 or so people are killed by medical malpractice right here in the US every day. Nothing to see here, move along…

    http://www.chl-tx.com

  113. #113 JBlilie
    April 28, 2009

    JBlilie: H1N1 is kind of a broad designation.

    Understood. Just reporting that the vaccine isn’t a protection in this case (even though an H1N1 strain of some sort is normally included in the annual vaccine.)

    So, in the US, we normally have around 30,000 deaths per year due to garden variety flu. That’s a mortality rate of around 1/100th of 1%. We probably have an infection rate more like 20+%.

    So far with this flu: no deaths and no serious illness in the US.

    In MX: 2000 hospitalized, of which >50% have been released. 20 deaths. Out of how many cases? They have no idea. At our background rate, they would expect 20 deaths per 200,000 population. Population of MX is 110,000,000. They would expect about 11,000 deaths per year from flu just as background noise. 11,000, not 20. We’re talking orders of magnitude lower than background noise. 11,000 per year is an average rate of 211 deaths per week, every week. We are still way down in the noise.

    Now, I’m not saying it’s nothing or no big deal. It does appear to communicate very easily and the authorites seem to be worried about the virulence. However, it certainly seems to be nothing to panic about and I think it’s getting probably over-blown publicity.

    Also: Panic is never a good tactic for anything.

  114. #114 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 28, 2009

    If I was really cynical a paranoid conspiracy theorist, I might think this was just a distraction for this administration’s latest attempts to trash the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 10th amendments to the COTUS

    fixed

  115. #115 Colonel Molerat
    April 28, 2009

    I’ve only seen one pigs fly/swine flu joke today…
    I’m not having much luck with it myself, it’s a grammatical minefield.

  116. #116 Fred the Hun
    April 28, 2009

    Meanwhile, more than 1000 children die of malaria every day.

    Yeah, but not in the US, so out of sight and out of mind. Also you can’t catch malaria directly from another person, you need a little help from a mosquito that lives in the tropics. They don’t do so well in Ohio.

  117. #117 Fred the Hun
    April 28, 2009

    Another blockquote fail! I’m spoiled by sites that have edit buttons that allow you to fix stuff after you post… I know, preview is my friend, but often times I try to use it and then for some reason it won’t let me post.

  118. #118 comsympinko
    April 28, 2009

    The ?swine flu? is obviously the greatest current threat to mankind, ever and begorrah. Or something.

    Just like the avian H5N1 virus. Scary name. Eleven.

    Or SARS. That?s Severe. Acute. Respiratory. Syndrome. Eleven.

    We?re. Clearly. All. Gonna. Die. Eleven.

    Or maybe not. Maybe, just maybe these 24/7/365/666 news networks just use the threat of imminent 1918 Plague in the face of all current medical knowledge that says NO WAY are we ever going to face a similar threat to the 1918 Plague again to increase sales and ratings because it unites us all: left and right, leftard and wingnut.

    Yes! America unites behind a total non-threat threat because no one could possibly deny the spectre of 1918 Plagular disease killing us all! Eleven!

    Except it hasn’t happened in the past 91 years and will not happen now.

    Will. Not. Happen. Now. Eleven.

    For further reading on why this ?swine flu? is no more threat to the general public than NASCAR wrecks, please visit the following link:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/letters/bird-flu-shabina-begum-and-others-755988.html

    I wrote this about the bird flu over four years ago, but it applies as if I wrote it yesterday and replaced “avian” with “swine.”

    Healthy reading! Eleven!

  119. #119 Leftoflarry
    April 28, 2009

    Or you can get weekly updates from: http://www.cdc.gov/mmWR/preview/mmwrhtml/mm58d0424a1.htm

  120. #120 dNorrisM
    April 28, 2009

    (My physical sciences sockpuppet posted this over at the BA’s blog.)

    Did anyone else notice that the avian/swine/human hybrid flu first occured shortly after the pigasus prizes were awarded?

    What was Jenny DOing to that poor thing?

  121. #121 Fred the Hun
    April 28, 2009

    comsympinko @ 118,
    from your linked post:

    A child that has all its nutritional needs satisfied without interruption from day one emerges with a powerful immune system.

    Aside from the quibble, that good nutrition doesn’t have a direct effect on ones ability to develop immunity to pathogens, isn’t having a well developed healthy immune system, which can over react, part of the problem in this case?

  122. #122 blf
    April 28, 2009

    all current medical knowledge that says NO WAY are we ever going to face a similar threat to the 1918 Plague again

    Evidence (e.g., creditable citations), please, for this remarkable claim?

  123. #123 AJ Milne
    April 28, 2009

    I just keep thinking there have to be some really, really bad puns in this.

    Like this one:

    Yeah, he said, that’ll be when pigs fly…

    And then, damn, whaddya know. The swine flu.

    (… erm… yeah. Like that. Only funny. I’ll get back to you.)

  124. #124 AJ Milne
    April 28, 2009

    Oh, @#$%, I see someone in the thread has even already gone there.

    It’s not just bad. It’s not even original.

    Moar better deadly disease names, plz.

  125. #125 Chi
    April 28, 2009

    Is Revere still the crackpot that he was back during the bird flu scare?

  126. #126 BAllanJ
    April 28, 2009

    Canada brings thousands of mexicans in every year as agricultural workers and many of them come now (mmm asparagus). Canadian health types have been in Mexico for a while now helping with this stuff and we have sent more down to evaluate the heath of the migrants before they board the plane to Canada.

    How stupid can China and Russia be to be banning pork imports. What marroons! Learn to cook. Since pretty much every piece of chicken has salmonella all over it, I presume you know how to do that anyway.

    On the brighter side… how easy is it going to be meeting out CO2 targets if a quarter of us die!

  127. #127 raven
    April 28, 2009

    Well the lunatic fringers are showing up.

    Soon the god is smiting America because of gays, Democrats, and abortion crowd will be here.

    The Illuminati-Jewish-Catholic-Reptiloid Aliens-Obama crowd weighed in already, 5 seconds after the disease hit the news.

    Now the germ theory of disease deniers are here and the science bashers. We have a new emerging disease every few years, predicted by evolutionary biology and medical ecology.

    The reason why Ebola, Nipah, and any of the novel flu strains haven’t killed a few million or a few dozen million world wide is simple. Medical and biological science.

    We aren’t just cave men sitting around a fire (or creos sitting in our trailer parks) any more wondering why all our children are dying all of the sudden. We have 21st century knowledge and technology that can and has stopped these pandemics. One early one got away from us. It is called HIV/AIDS and it will be with us for a long time. We could have stopped it early but the technology wasn’t quite available yet in the 1970’s and it was too dug in in the third world.

    Life spans in the USA have increased 30 years in the last century. It is always amusing in a weird way to watch people hate and rage against the very science that lets them live long and healthy lives.

  128. #128 Fred the Hun
    April 28, 2009

    We aren’t just cave men sitting around a fire (or creos sitting in our trailer parks) any more wondering why all our children are dying all of the sudden. We have 21st century knowledge and technology that can and has stopped these pandemics.

    Ever hear of “Peak Oil”? Our wonderful technology is a house of cards based on an inverted pyramid with fossil fuel at its base.

    Mexico’s Woes: Quakes, Flu and Oil Production Collapse

  129. #129 comsympinko
    April 28, 2009

    Fred The Hun–

    Overreaction by the immune system generally does not lead to death except in the case of serious autoimmune disease. This particular strain of influenza does indeed seem to have an autoimmune component but it is unlikely to be fatal.

    blf–

    Ninety-one years of no fatal acute global pandemics seems to be strong evidence in favor of all current medical knowledge describing the extinction of such phenomena.

  130. #130 Michael Bo
    April 28, 2009

    We have 5 to 11 “confirmed” cases of suspicion of the flu here in Denmark. And, they are keeping them in a hospital a few minutes from where me and my pregnant wife is living.

    Worried..? No, not really, as the hospital is taking samples and sending the patients home.

    Seems to me that this is just another example of a flu virus that can kill you, and will, if you’re really in a bad way beforehand. I.e. respitory diseases, etc.

    Before you say it..

    Isn’t this just another case of blowing things out of proportion?

    Everyone seems to relate to the 1918 epidemic, but that was under very special circumstances. A war going on in mudholes in France.

    More people get killed every day in traffic accidents in the US, and yet I don’t see you all get excited about that?

  131. #131 Ivar Husa
    April 28, 2009

    Jay Leno via the Tonight Show reported on the possible source of swine flu, saying that attention is turning toward Match.com.

  132. #132 Fred the Hun
    April 28, 2009

    Ninety-one years of no fatal acute global pandemics seems to be strong evidence in favor of all current medical knowledge describing the extinction of such phenomena.

    91 days of feeding of the turkey by the farmer makes it more, not less likely that the turkey’s head will be chopped off on the 92nd day when it comes in for it’s daily feeding…

  133. #133 raven
    April 28, 2009

    comysympinko the delusional kook:

    Ninety-one years of no fatal acute global pandemics seems to be strong evidence in favor of all current medical knowledge describing the extinction of such phenomena

    Sign of a kook. Lying.

    We’ve had two global flu pandemics since 1918. They weren’t as severe as the 1918 one but still killed 1-2 million people worldwide.

    HIV/AIDS kills 2-3 million people in the world every year with about that number being newly infected. This is a pandemic is slow motion but a pandemic by a novel disease nevertheless. It isn’t much of a problem in the first world because we are on it. In parts of the third world it is devastating with 20-30% of the breeding age population infected, most of whom will eventually die of AIDS.

    SARS almost became a pandemic. Only hard work by clever scientists stopped it and some of those caught the disease and died so you can be a babbling idiot.

    You are entitled to your own opinions and delusions but not to make up your own facts.

    Whatever, as it says in the bible, forget the crazies, they will always be with us. So predictable.

  134. #134 oldtree
    April 28, 2009

    Keep on eating your pork for victory over the virus. Next time chicken, next time bovine, after that what, soylent?
    Or, stop using animals for food and fix the damn planet. We are a simple lot.

  135. #135 Cliff Hendroval
    April 28, 2009

    I hate being reminded how so many people in the deepest fiber of their being yearn for apocalypse.

  136. #136 Martin_z
    April 28, 2009

    No worries. It can easily be treated with a little oinkment….

  137. #137 Bezoar
    April 28, 2009

    As a health care professional I would use caution around individuals who show signs of Flu.
    The Swine Flu is a Type A Flu variant (H1/N1). The Flu shot you my or may not have gotten earlier this year will not protect against this strain. Hand washing and avoidance of touching your eyes and nose after a casual contact with an ill individual is the most you can do for prevention. Wearing a mask is a good idea if one isn?t too self conscious.
    Tamiflu should be reserved for the most seriously ill. It seems for a currently unknown reason that this Flu is most serious in younger patients as opposed to the standard Type A which is worse for infants and the elderly.

  138. #138 Alex Deam
    April 28, 2009

    Just like the avian H5N1 virus. Scary name. Eleven.

    Or SARS. That?s Severe. Acute. Respiratory. Syndrome. Eleven.

    We?re. Clearly. All. Gonna. Die. Eleven.

    Or maybe organizations like the WHO prevented those diseases from getting out of control? Maybe you should listen to them, who say the current alert level is 4 out of 6.

    Ninety-one years of no fatal acute global pandemics seems to be strong evidence in favor of all current medical knowledge describing the extinction of such phenomena

    I’m pretty sure the dinosaurs said something pretty similar 65 million years ago…

    More people get killed every day in traffic accidents in the US, and yet I don’t see you all get excited about that?

    That’s because traffic accidents are neither invisible to the naked eye, nor contagious.

    Fucking hell, that’s a whole lot of teh stoopid.

  139. #139 balagan
    April 28, 2009

    Well I suppose this is what you get for living in a feudal theological dictatorship.

    The UAE have closed down the Pork shops, so no bacon this week. The complete lack of basic scientific understanding is astounding. One of my friends heard a local here say today “Well the muslims will be safe as we don’t eat pork”

  140. #140 Alex Deam
    April 28, 2009

    In the age of A. Computers and B. Nuclear Weapons (and now C. Mass Travel between Countries potentially spreading diseases), we have the most antiquated documents of governance of any advanced democracy, or some not totally advanced ones. It’s stupid.

    Beyond that (and, yes, not directly relevant to the swine flu, although the reason above IS relevant) is the fact that it makes it easier for the two-party duopoly, but that’s a whole nother subject.

    What the hell are you talking about? The title of “the most antiquated documents of governance of any advanced democracy” clearly goes to the UK.

    And as for the general concept of parliamentary systems versus presidential systems of governance, presidential systems win hands down just on separation of powers alone.

    And having a parliamentary system or not has nothing to do with how many dominate parties there are. The fact that there are only two main parties in the US, is down to the voting system, not the form of governance. You have a first past the post system, which means two parties tend to dominate. If you want more parties to dominate, then you need proportional representation. The voting system you have has nothing to with presidential systems.

    Presidential systems may be slow in picking cabinet members, but I see that as an advantage. The cabinet gets vetted under that system, whereas in a parliamentary system, the leader can just pick whoever the hell he wants to be in his cabinet, with no vetting.

  141. #141 scooter
    April 28, 2009

    comsympinko @ 128

    Overreaction by the immune system generally does not lead to death except in the case of serious autoimmune disease.

    I’m waaay out of my field of knowlege on these subjects, however I did do some extensive reading on the 1918 pandemic and I clearly remember the Army Doctor guy from ground zero in the southwest said that it was the body over-reacting to this infection where victims died of fatality, the actual flu itself would not kill you to death, because most people who contracted it got only flu symptoms, and did not die of fatality. The people who were killed to death had entirely different symptoms.

    It was not a matter of degree.

    I was assuming that would be the immune system over-reacting. Untreated food allergies as well as allergic drug reactions like to penicillin kill the shit out of a lot of people.

  142. #142 blf
    April 28, 2009

    Ninety-one years of no fatal acute global pandemics seems to be strong evidence in favor of all current medical knowledge describing the extinction of such phenomena.

    As others have pointed out, there have been several pandemics since 1918. For instance, Wikipedia’s summary of pandemics lists two influenza ones since then, killing a total of c.3 million people worldwide, including over one hundred thousand (c.104,000) in the USA alone. And influenza is not the only pandemic virus.

    In addition, you still have not provided one itoa of evidence that any medical research, anywhere, at any time, has ever claimed there cannot be another pandemic, or that one as bad as the 1918 one cannot happen.

    So again, what please is your evidence?creditable citations for preference?for your remarkable claim that (influenza?) pandemics are ?extinct??

  143. #143 ???
    April 28, 2009

    Shouldn’t they be warning us to stay away from being vaccinated against the Swine virus if such a vaccination existed?

    They might secretly hog the vaccine if there was one.

  144. #144 SASnSA
    April 28, 2009

    Google has it mapped out here

  145. #145 Alex Deam
    April 28, 2009

    From the BBC:

    “Mexico City has banned restaurants and cafes from serving all food except takeaways in a bid to help prevent the spread of the deadly swine flu virus.”

    WTF? Why? Seems a little extreme.

    “In California, where there have been 11 cases, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency as a precautionary measure but stressed there was “no need for alarm”.”

    Lol, there’s no need for alarm, it’s only an emergency…

    @144:

    Google has it mapped out here

    Yay! The internet age means we can track our (potential) deaths via Google.

  146. #146 raven
    April 28, 2009

    Los Angeles Coroner’s spokesman Craig Harvey told the Los Angeles Times that a hospital in Bellflower, Calif., reported the death of a 33-year-old Long Beach man who was brought in Saturday with symptoms resembling swine flu. The other death was a 45-year-old La Mirada man who died April 22 at a Norwalk, Calif., hospital.

    Two possible swine flu deaths in SoCal. All we know is that they are youngish, had symptoms consistent with swine flu, and they are dead. That last one is pretty unequivocal.

    Something I’ve been wondering about. There is a huge amount of traffic between the US and Mexico, some of it unmonitored. There could be lots of undetected cases in the south USA.

  147. #147 blf
    April 28, 2009

    Mexico City has banned restaurants and cafes from serving all food except takeaways in a bid to help prevent the spread of the deadly swine flu virus.

    WTF? Why? Seems a little extreme.

    If I’m recalling an article(? blog?) in The Grauniad correctly, it’s to prevent people from congregating together.

  148. #148 Alex Deam
    April 28, 2009

    Yeah, but people congregate for takeaways too, when they queue.

  149. #149 Colonel Molerat
    April 29, 2009

    Hmmm…
    This epidemic has been a bit disappointing on the jokes front (although kudos to those who have been more successful than I) – hwoever, it may still have a chance to redeem itself if I get lots of time off (working at) school, and am forced to sit at home, reading blogs and eating nothing but take away. Oh no, the apocalypse is nigh.

    On another note – is catching swine flu a risk from take-away food? Obviously not if they clean their hands and heat the food thoroughly, but if they’re a bit sloppy, how great are the risks?

  150. #150 Michael
    April 29, 2009

    Comment #149 This epidemic has been a bit disappointing on the jokes front

    Oh really, you find the killer disease entertaining? You should meet the families of the victims and maybe they will find the jokes amusing.

    The strain swine flu (which is bird, human, and pig all in one) has never been detected before has had different effects, in Mexico people have died, but not in other parts of the world like the United States. It still remains a mystery on why this has happened.

    As far as the risk, it’s still unknown to how easily it can spread, certainly it cannot spread in food. But most likely the risk of someone who is infected coughing on you or sneezing similar to that of a regular flu. Flu viruses generally can remain active on a surface for several hours.

    Last winter’s flu shots does not work against this strain of swine flu, but flu drugs like Tamiflu or Relenza. Perhaps you should stop focusing on the amusement and start educating yourself about it.

  151. #151 Rorschach
    April 29, 2009

    in Mexico people have died, but not in other parts of the world like the United States.

    Interesting development there,Mexico is retesting samples from the dead,and some of the preliminary results apparently might not have been deaths from swine flu.Who would know.And not only in the U.S,but apparently in New Zealand also,the cases all seem to be taking a mild course.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8024039.stm

  152. #152 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 29, 2009

    Any virologists on here that want to proof a letter to the editor for me (not for grammar or spelling, I’ll handle screw that up on my own)?

  153. #153 blf
    April 29, 2009

    in Mexico people have died, but not in other parts of the world like the United States.

    No longer strictly true. The Grauniad is reporting a child in Texas has now died. The 23 month old child is apparently of Mexican heritage, and whilst the report is less than clear, it seems the child has not been to Mexico, albeit he(?) may have been in contact with people (possibly relatives?) who were recently in Mexico.

  154. #154 blf
    April 29, 2009

    Yeah, but people congregate for takeaways too, when they queue.

    Yup, albeit perhaps for not as long?

    From The Grauniad’s Swine flu blog is this:

    7.36pm: [April 29th, probably BST]

    In Mexico City, The Guardian’s Latin America correspondent Rory Carroll writes that the city’s denizens are furious at an edict shutting its 30,000 restaurants.

    “Madness. Not even after the 1985 earthquake was it like this,” said Juan Perez, 44, scrubbing the front of Julia’s, a shuttered taco joint on Avenida Cuauhtemoc. “This is a disaster.”

    On the other hand, he notes:

    Crime rates have fallen, air quality has greatly improved and birds are audible on what once were thronged thouroughfares

  155. #155 blf
    April 29, 2009

    Gah! Hyperlink/HTML fail. The Grauniad’s swine flu blog is http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/blog/2009/apr/29/swine-flu

  156. #156 Colonel Molerat
    April 30, 2009

    @Michael, comment 150.
    In case you hadn’t noticed, there is an awful lot of suffering, death, disease and general unpleasantness in the world. You seem to have avoided it by keeping your head up your arse until now, but I’m not going to give special rights to something that has killed 150 that I wouldn’t give to things that have killed far more. Almost (?) everything in life has a funny side, and it’s a far more enjoyable way to face the world than being a veritable dullard. Even if one does have to face people like you occasionally.
    And I am ‘educating myself about swine flu’- in fact, asking the question I did may have been an attempt to do that!!!!
    I have also looked at the CDC site, where they say that the virus is not spread by food, but then go on to say that ‘properly handled and cooked’ food is safe. I was wondering about human-to-human transmission through food that has not been properly handled and cooked (rather than pig-human transmission through pork products, which I already knew wasn’t dangerous).
    In short: go and piss up a rope.

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