Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Everything you ever wanted to know about influenza...even a little bit about manbearpig flu

I guess I don't need to say there has been a lot of new about the swine flu lately. I've read countless blogs and new articles about it. I've even temporarily banned TV news from head for a while in order to avoid all the fear mongering. I've been kind of lazy lately so I'm gonna poach a story from one of my favorite sources of medical news: Junkfood Science.

I'm always generally skeptical of "breaking news" and other news stories on popular media. They have a habit of picking sensational headlines, exaggerate the facts and leaving out critical information (and critical thinking). This is especially true of science news. The public buys fear so the media sells fear. Isn't "sweeps week" sometime around now?

Briefly, part of the this "new" scare is due to a new focus and reporting system on influenza by health organizations. "increased surveillance is not the same thing as actual increased incidents." Tens of thousands of Americans already die from influenza every year. The numbers are NOT increasing. It's not time to panic. It's smart to be concerned but most importantly: wash your hands, don't cough on people, wash your hands and don't forget to wash your hands.

Here are some snippets from Junkfood Science Blog:

The media loves a good scare and the word pandemic is a guaranteed headline grabber. By this evening, there were nearly 70,000 news stories about an influenza pandemic, many accentuated by pictures of crowds of people wearing blue surgical masks. But scaring you half to death with speculations of a new pandemic does little to help you. The known facts, offered in a balanced perspective, is really news you can use.

...most of us have lived through a flu pandemic and never even realized it. The Hong Kong flu pandemic in 1968-69, for example, killed an estimated 33,800 Americans. That sounds like a lot, but it’s about the same number of Americans who die from the flu in a typical year.

Swine flu was first isolated in laboratory tests from a human in 1974. Sporadic cases of swine influenza viral infections in humans have been reported in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia for decades.

The bottom line is that there is no evidence we need to panic about another flu pandemic. The newspapers and television networks love a good scare, as do pharmaceutical companies. But scares do nothing to make us feel better. All influenza infections are worthy of prudent precautions, but panic can be far more virulent and more costly than the flu itself.

Please read Sandy's full story and follow the links: "Flu Fears."

Addendum:

1. Forget about those blue surgical masks you see everyone wearing on television news. Viruses are tiny enough to go right through them or around the openings. They might help protect you from globs of mucus flying towards your face, but that’s about all. They’re mostly good for hyping the fear factor and looking scary. -JFSBlog

2. If you get sick: For heavens sake, stay home and don’t spread any respiratory virus with your friends, schoolmates, work buddies or fellow parishioners. And especially stay away from people who are more vulnerable to respiratory infections, such as babies, elderly, immunosuppressed patients and those with underlying medical conditions or chronic diseases. -JFSBlog

3. If you believe in god, (why are you reading my blog?) I doubt your god/Gods/God would want you to go hang out all sick and everything with all his worshipers on Sunday. Stay away from church. But then again, perhaps your god/God/God wants a bunch of new souls...hum quite a dilemma.

3. Viruses are pretty cool little buggers.

4. Learn about Al Gore's research into manbearpig. I don't really have any information about a flu associated with manbearpig. However, I'm sure if there was a flu associated with manbearpig, we'd all surely be fucked.

5. Michelle Bachman is, again.

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