The Swine Flu Might Be Less Deadly Than the Average Winter Flu

The headlines have been scary.

For example, the headline from the Telegraph says:

“Swine flu: ‘All of humanity under threat‘, WHO warns”

That sounds extremely dire, indeed.

And every new case of swine flu is being treated as a breaking news alert.

However, the World Health Organization quote was taken out of context. And science actually paints more a reassuring picture.

For example, as the Los Angeles times notes today:

Scientists studying the virus are coming to the consensus that this hybrid strain of influenza — at least in its current form — isn’t shaping up to be as fatal as the strains that caused some previous pandemics.

In fact, the current outbreak of the H1N1 virus, which emerged in San Diego and southern Mexico late last month, may not even do as much damage as the run-of-the-mill flu outbreaks that occur each winter without much fanfare.

The LA Times goes on to provide useful detail:

Mounting preliminary evidence from genetics labs, epidemiology models and simple mathematics suggests that the worst-case scenarios are likely to be avoided in the current outbreak.

“This virus doesn’t have anywhere near the capacity to kill like the 1918 virus,” which claimed an estimated 50 million victims worldwide, said Richard Webby, a leading influenza virologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn…

“There are certain characteristics, molecular signatures, which this virus lacks,” said Peter Palese, a microbiologist and influenza expert at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York. In particular, the swine flu lacks an amino acid that appears to increase the number of virus particles in the lungs and make the disease more deadly…

We expect to see more cases, more hospitalizations, and, unfortunately, we are likely to see more deaths from the outbreak,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters Wednesday on her first day at work.

But certainly nothing that would dwarf a typical flu season. In the U.S., between 5% and 20% of the population becomes ill and 36,000 people die — a mortality rate of between 0.24% and 0.96%…

And a pandemic doesn’t necessarily have a high fatality rate…

Though scientists have begun to relax about the initial toll, they’re considerably less comfortable when taking into account the fall flu season. They remain haunted by the experience of 1918, when the relatively mild first wave of flu was followed several months later by a more aggressive wave.

The longer the virus survives, the more chances it has to mutate into a deadlier form.

“If this virus keep going through our summer,” Palese said, “I would be very concerned.”

And while Vice President Biden advised people not to travel by plane or subway, the head of the CDC said such travel was safe:

“I think flying is safe. Going on the subway is safe. People should go out and live their lives,” Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters.

“In terms of flights, if you have a fever and flu-like symptoms, you should not get on an airplane,” he said.

But Besser added that officials involved in public health “should put in context what the risk is.”

The bottom line is that while this flu is certainly spreading worldwide, and many folks will likely catch it – in the same way that many catch the normal flu every winter.

The real question is how dangerous it is.

While it could mutate into something extremely lethal, right now it is fairly mild.

Note: Precautions, such as frequent hand-washing, should certainly be undertaken. And studies note that Vitamin D can help ward off flus or reduce their severity. There is also some evidence that certain probiotics do the same.

Update: Approximately 1,700 Americans could be infected in a worst-case scenario, says Dirk Brockmann, associate professor of engineering sciences and applied mathematics at Northwestern. This is apparently less than the number infected from the regular winter flu.

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  • An NRI who flew to Hyderabad from Texas, the US state which reported the first swine flu death outside Mexico, was on Wednesday found to have the flu symptoms..swine flu to hyderabad

  • Some have criticized the coverage as media driven hysteria and point out that we normally have 36,000 flu deaths per year. What they do not realize is that at least 30,000 of those deaths are caused by pharmaceutical companies and the government agencies they ownconspiring together to force vaccines on patients 70 years of age and over for whom there is no benefit in vaccination. This explains why the Mexican Swine flu has killed mostly healthy adults and not many elderly. But, as soon as the promised vaccine is available in September, people 70 and over will start dying like flies. http://openingmind.blogspot.com

  • The severity of cases in the current swine flu outbreak has varied widely. In Mexico, there have been deaths and other severe cases. Early cases in the U.S. have been mild. But that could change. The virus itself could change, either becoming more or less dangerous. Scientists are watching closely to see which way the new swine flu virus is heading — but health experts warn that flu viruses are notoriously hard to predict, as far as how and when they’ll change.You can see more swine flu recommendations and a Complete Swine Flu Guide at: http://www.swineflurecommendations.com/

  • way to plug your sites so you can make a buck at the expense of someone else misery or click of their mouse!! seriously, just go away swine flu spam bots….

  • Except for Mexicans.

  • 5000 units Vitamin D3, or lots of sunshine is good. I would recommend 10 grams of Vitamin C to supposedly reduce the severity.I have enough of each for my wife and I for a month.

  • 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…Mexico prepares for swine flu shutdown

  • H1N1 (referred to as “swine flu” early on) is a new influenza virus causing illness in people. Symptoms of swine flu are similar to those caused by other influenza viruses. Health authorities across the globe are taking steps to try to stem the spread of swine flu after outbreaks in Mexico and the United States. The World Health Organization has called it a "public health emergency of international concern."