Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pandemic Madness - Not Again?!

It's 2009, just three years since we were warned of a worldwide Avian flu pandemic that would wipe out vast swaths of the population. Birds were slaughtered by the millions, causing immense harm to farmers across Asia. Any American foolish enough to travel to Asia during this outbreak was subsequently quarantined when they returned, just as they were during the previous non-event known as SARS, which also was supposed to bring on pandemic-style Armaggedon. How many have died from Avian flu so far? The terrifyingly vast number of 257.

OK so, phew. Somehow we made it through both of those scares alive--though who knows how many weeks or years of our lives we each lost as a result of the stress hormones we secreted in response to the panicmongering the media handed out to us.

Now, there's a whole panic-demic on our hands. This time the culprits are innocent little piggies. Already, there are reports of mass slaughter of these animals. And of course, we can only begin to imagine the lost revenues to Mexican tourism that are piling up as cruise lines change their routes, flights are canceled, and so on. Great timing for Mexico, which is also getting hammered for its drug violence.

Meanwhile, the good people at Novartis, makers of TheraFlu and various vaccines are no doubt jumping for joy right now, as are other flu vaccine manufacturers GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi Pasteur and MedImmune. Buy stock in those companies if you know what's good for you.

So, not to rain on everyone's parade all at once, but let's take a look at the facts for a brief moment before returning to our regularly scheduled all-fear all-the-time programming:

The swine flu death toll so far includes: 159 people, all of them Mexican citizens.
This is approximately 0.00014% of Mexico's total population of 109,955,400.

No one else has died, even though there are confirmed cases in the U.S. and around the world. Maybe I should repeat that. No one else, that is, no non-Mexicans, have died from this. Not only that, but among the 2,500 cases of swine flu in Mexico, only 6.3% have died.

In California, there have been 19 cases of swine flu, all nonfatal. That is .000035% of our state's population. Yet, apparently the Governator has seen fit to declare a "state of emergency" over it. (Thanks @jameane for doing that calculation.)

So can we all just take a breath and calm down, please? Ask yourself, how many people have died of run of the mill, regular flu this year? I don't know the exact number, but I'm guessing it's in the thousands. How many generally die each year of, I don't know, bubonic plague. I looked that one up, it's 15-20 per year in the US alone.

Look, fear is a hard one for the human system to endure, so what about saving it up for some stuff that is actually scary? Like, for example, the fact that despite Obama's stimulus efforts, our economy is still in the pits? Or, I don't know, the extremely high likelihood that poor children around the world could die at any moment due to poor nutrition and sanitation? In fact, that's happening right now as we speak--a poverty pandemic is causing infants and children to die in many, many undeveloped nations, and even in some very wealthy countries.

OK I have said my piece. Go back to your regularly scheduled programming folks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...