Chiming in on the Swine Flu

There are plenty of great sites here on Scienceblogs that have talked about the swine flu, including Aetiology, the Scientific Activist, Greg Laden, Ethics and Science, and Effect Measure, among others.

But I’ve noticed, reading comments here and elsewhere, that people are really, seriously terrified of this. And yes, it can kill you if you don’t take care of it. But what does the swine flu mean for you? Here’s my rundown on it:

  • Swine flu will not kill you if you treat it in time.
  • You will not be asymptomatic. If you have swine flu, you will have (surprise) flu-like symptoms.
  • It is about as contagious as the regular flu.
  • There are — as of right now — less than 1,000 alleged cases worldwide.

And that’s it. It’s a bad thing that’s out there, but it’s so far from a “pandemic” that it’s laughable. Live your life as normal unless you get the flu (or flu-like symptoms), and then (and only then) should you call your doctor and read what the CDC has to offer. As of right now, we have a “whopping” 141 cases in the US, with one death. Making swine flu far, far less deadly and prevalent than getting struck by lightning.

So chill out unless you actually have the flu, and enjoy your Friday.


  1. #1 JMG
    May 1, 2009

    It’s a bad thing that’s out there, but it’s so far from a “pandemic” that it’s laughable.

    This may be true, but that’s the key with epidemics, especially pandemics: prevention. There is sometimes a very, very fine line between a problem that’s “laughable” and a serious national/international health concern. Planning and a good understanding of epidemics (ie travel restrictions, knowing how an infection spreads spatially and temporally) is vital in these kinds of situations.

  2. #2 Steinn Sigurdsson
    May 1, 2009

    You have no immunity to this, and it is about as contagious as regular seasonal flu.
    Essentially no one has immunity to it, that is why it is likely to become pandemic.

    Some fraction of flu cases lead to death, normally it is a small fraction of cases, and mostly those already vulnerable, ie very young and very old and very sick.

    Sometimes, new flu strains primarily kill healthy young adults for reasons not well understood.
    Very little can be done about it, though the newer antivirals can sometimes help, if provided at the right time.

  3. #3 jim jacks
    May 1, 2009

    lots of these kissing pig pics now on different blogs lOL

    get a load of this scary Report.

  4. #4 george.w
    May 2, 2009

    I did a terrible thing; although I am neither a scientist or a doctor, I offered medical advice to a co-worker. She had a tummyache and was worried that she might have swine flu. (CDC hadn’t found any cases in Illinois yet)

    I took a conspicuously deep breath and asked her; “Can you do that?” She did the same, easily. Muscles ache? No. “Then you don’t have swine flu,” I said.

    I hope she doesn’t die of swine flu now. I’d feel really bad about it.

  5. #5 Nick
    May 2, 2009

    It’s ridiculous how overblown swine flu has become. The “regular” influenza virus kills an average of 36,000 people a year in the United States alone (, and we’re panicking over less than 10 deaths? I must agree with Ethan that the concept of swine flu as a pandemic is laughable, at least at this point in time.

  6. #6 John
    May 4, 2009

    Maybe not deadly, but conveniently similar to what a deadly flu might be like. So, while we shouldn’t necessarily be hiding out in a cave in the hills until it blows over, we shouldn’t take it lightly, either. It’s like a dress rehearsal for the plague. Let’s take it seriously.

  7. #7 Sherika
    October 7, 2009

    This is crazy and that is the man reason why we are getting sick because one man want to kiss a pig
    but a man in the american said that they found out that pigs have the swine flu because they are not like other animals they are weird from them and that they have to eat different kinds of food and that they are always coming down that is the reason nobody have just have pig for thankgiving that farms.

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