Swine Flu Pandemic deaths in USA: 1 Other USA Flu Deaths: 36,000


Update:  The 2009/2010  H1N1 Swine Flu season is more severe than last year when I wrote this post, though the statistics haven’t shaken out yet.  My current take is that while initial concerns may have been overblown we are *now* facing a fairly serious health risk and I’d encourage  folks to take the vaccine when it’s available in your area.     I’m actually optimistic that the *total deaths from flu* will go down this year as people are taking far greater precautions than usual.

——————

You’ve got to hand it to the hype machine on this one for exaggerating the chances that the Swine Flu is going to get ya.    I certainly understand why the CDC would be concerned that a new virus will spread and become dangerous, but the near-panic we’ve seen over the past week is simply not warranted by a reasonable interpretation of the data.   I’m hardly a flu expert but it appears that the contagion, far from exploding, has been kept almost completely in check with only a handful of cases outside of the likely area of origin in Mexico and no rapid spread even in Mexico.    It’s possible all the fear and masks have kept things in check but more likely this just isn’t that deadly a virus.

For example if we had followed all the precautions many are  following *right now* by wearing masks, avoiding mass public activities, and obsessive hand washing the number of *regular* flu deaths would likely have been on the order of many thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands, less than they were in the 2009 Flu season (which roughly corresponds to “winter” and takes on average about 36,000 lives each year in the USA alone based on the CDC data cited below.

I’m seeing some parallels with the hysterical responses to minor weather events which are often foolishly attributed to climate crisis when in fact they are simply minor changes in the weather.  At least in the case of this flu there is an objectively identifiable new flu strain – H1N1,  that *theoretically* could create massive trouble along the lines of the 1918 flu pandemic.   That flu pandemic killed more people than any event with the possible exception of WWII depending on death toll estimates which generally fall between 50 million and 100 million for the flu.     The “better documented” WWII death toll was about 73 million worldwide.   Obviously this means that flu pandemics are of critical importance, but it’s also important to recognize that millions die every year from very easily preventable diseases like malaria and rotoviruses to which we have historically paid far too little attention.

In the USA WWII took about 400,000 lives while the 1918 Pandemic took about 500,000

So with 1 US death so far, and that I think from a victim sent to Texas from Mexico, we are looking at a death toll 1/500,000th as large as in 1918.   Not sure that calls for the response we’ve seen so far.

Clearly the 2009 Swine Flu pandemic is nothing to sneeze at but I think it’s also clear that the 24 hour news and even the CDC – perhaps practicing for a real threat – have hyped this event out of proportion to the real threat.    If that’s because the threat really, really cannot be known I supposed it’s fine, but if it’s because this type of thing keeps people focused in ways that are profitable to TV News or grant and funding producing for CDC I hope we take a close look at all this when it’s over.    Although epidemiologists are probably going to say “better safe than sorry” with Pandemic alerts it’s also true  that overhyped events can lead to a lax future response from a public that becomes too used to “crying wolf” when the threat is actually quite low.

The world currently faces several catastrophic health, poverty, and human rights crises in the developing world and will face more global crises in the coming decades – we don’t need more fake ones.

CDC on Flu Deaths

Prescription Report on Tamiflu, an antiviral treatment for Swine Flu.   NO, you probably don’t need this drug!

CNN on flu hysteria as the “real problem”.   Hey, talk about a two for one story here!    Hype the flu news and then hype the hype about the flu news.    However in this case I’m not sure TV News is to blame as the CDC and government folks have been quick to talk about “inevitable” pandemic and other statements that have led to much of the trouble.    In fact I think we’re seeing the same challenge of bureaucratic interpretations here we see with global warming alarmism.  There are often political and social penalties for bureaucrats who fail to identify major problems.   There are *huge* rewards if you manage to convince grant and government funders that minor problems are major problems.   Yet we don’t tend to punish folks for “exaggerating risks” which is part of the reason … we have a lot of exaggeration of catastrophic risk in our society and too little attention to “mundane” but real risks like  normal flu deaths, gun deaths, and highways deaths which account for well over 100,000 dead each year.     Add heart disease and cancer to the list – they are also largely preventable grim reapers – and you find we are under quiet attack 24/7 by deathly dangers that make the 9/11 toll look completely trivial by comparison.

Think about this – if  we *knew* that a terror group was going to kill 100,000 Americans next year with an assault of viruses, guns, and car bombs there would be a near panic with calls for martial law or on the other end of the spectrum perhaps an armed revolution.      But since these risks are less dramatic we don’t fret enough about them, while worrying far too much about swine flu and the terrorists who only rarely materialize and appear to rarely if ever pose a truly catastrophic risk.      I would caveat this last point saying there are certainly terror groups out there that would consider catastrophic action and we certainly should seek to get them, but we always need to monitor the costs in terms of lives and money and compare this to alternatives.

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About JoeDuck

Internet Travel Guy, Father of 2, small town Oregon life. BS Botany from UW Madison Wisconsin, MS Social Sciences from Southern Oregon. Top interests outside of my family's well being are: Internet Technology, Online Travel, Globalization, China, Table Tennis, Real Estate, The Singularity.
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10 Responses to Swine Flu Pandemic deaths in USA: 1 Other USA Flu Deaths: 36,000

  1. horatiox says:

    In fact I think we’re seeing the same challenge of bureaucratic interpretations here we see with global warming alarmism.

    Interesting observation. The California bureaucracy has, of course, responded quickly and efficiently to swine flu paranoia, though there are NO confirmed cases. The health-nazis were set to close down, like, the entire economy of CA and quarantine the ‘burbs, until a few real doctors (instead of “professional health-care providers”) determined the few suspicious cases of schoolkids were just ordinary colds or flu. It appears to be a false alarm for most part.

    The swine flu also has tapped into the simmering racism of the Herd. I recently perused a “liberal” site with many jewish people calling for a ban of all pork products, if not putting the US Army on the border. The tin-foil posse has also offered explanations of the pandemic: biochemists working in secret labs for the trilateral commission concocted both the swine flu–and the vaccine–and the vaccine is the first step towards a communist health-care system, etc.

    That said, the spanish influenza of 1919 killed nearly twice the number of humans who were killed in WWI.

  2. FoolsGold says:

    Initial cases often affect those who are immune-compromised but that does not mean just the young, the old and those already weakened by other ailments. It includes those who are simply unlucky in the manner and intensity of their exposure and in the mix of innate and acquired immunities that they already have.

    If the individual can be viewed as being in a race between the viral envelope and the immune system, society can be viewed to be in a race between the alarmist-stakeholders and the more level headed persons.

    Hundreds of years of detailed records show us that although healthy and hearty when in the relatively isolated Scottish Highlands soldiers upon having their regiments activated tend to sicken at training camps as new viruses are introduced. Our modern world of air travel and tourism is simply an acceleration of such viral mixing.

    Politicians tend to gain from making statements that portray themselves as taking quick and effective action. This is perhaps why many emergency preparedness agencies issue such great press releases but seem to fail in actual performance. Be it health threats, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, floods, the public gets primed by excessive claims of danger and excessive estimates of certainty. This causes some modest behavior changes that shifts the overall exposure. Some flee a non-existent flood and perish in unnecessary auto accidents; some flee a flood that does later take place and perhaps fewer perish, perhaps not. Forecasts are made of “umpteen foot wall of water” but such scare tactics are usually devoid of reasonable probability estimates. Some respond to initial flu-related press releases with the purchase of masks that are really nothing but fashion statements asserting the wearer’s belief in trendy but meaningless responses to viral threats. A virus is so small a particle that the mask is in reality an absurd joke.

    When the post-WWI “Spanish” Flu hit, the towns that instituted free food deliveries to the sick did the best. So if these mask wearers really want to do something to protect themselves they would be best to buy fresh fruits and vegetables and meats. All viruses mutate and a host that is nutritionally impaired is often the prime cause of any extended epidemic. Selenium depletion or excessive intake of iron are prime candidates for increasing the potency of a viral infection.

    Tearing away at the layers of hype and erronious reporting, one usually finds just about the same level of incompetence as in any other field of human endeavor.

    Schools and daycare centers are always Pathogen Incubators that spread illnesses to other children, parents, workers, etc. So what? The teachers don’t want to lose their jobs and the mothers don’t want to be stuck home with the squabbling kids all day long, so the schools will remain as Pathogen Incubators.

    Standby plans will be dusted off but police will not actually be enforcing lockdowns at schools, hospitals and industrial plants. Massive numbers of body bags will not actually be shipped anywhere. Administrators of pencil pushing agencies will seek larger budgets and larger roles to play in such “preparedness precautions” but thats about the only change that actually takes place.

  3. Pingback: Swine Flu Off The Handle « we’re not in new hampshire anymore

  4. horatiox says:

    The racism of liberals seized with swine-flu paranoia tends to be a bit more subtle than that of the hicks. This racist bon mot from “Max” of New Worlds, fairly standard jingoism, shows it: I’m expecting the word to come down any day for ________’s school. Pretty high Hispanic ratio. So far we’re dodging the bullets.

    So, hispanic-American people all carry the swine flu? Or have it in greater numbers than non-hispanics? Or does he mean to suggest they’re all illegals? Not exactly specified, but fairly close to Mitt Romney-like immigrant paranoia.

  5. KtD says:

    These are some excellent points you make. I would certainly agree that the media coverage of H1N1 has been relatively sensationalized over the past few weeks. What is saddest is that there are HUGE implications for businesses, families and even nations/international relations as well. One prime example is that of Mexico and China recently. While the countries should both be showing absolute concern in their dealings/prevention of the virus, there have been some ridiculous shows of policy in the meantime. I watched an interesting video on the continuing repercussions of this swine flu, or H1N1 scare, at newsy.com earlier. It’s worth looking at:

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

  6. inmanjd says:

    “Swine Flu Pandemic deaths in USA: 1 Other USA Flu Deaths: 36,000”
    You are a voice of sanity. Thank God!

  7. Pandemic 3 says:

    I sure hope another Pandemic does not hit our world again. I can’t bear to see that many people die!! Hopefully it will stay out of the US again.

  8. rogue says:

    The 36,000 figure from flu deaths is as a CDC lie and they know it is a lie because they tell the states to include pneumonia deaths in that figure.
    According to GlobalResearch.ca, the flu death average for 1979 through 2002 is 1,384 per year. The other 34,616 are from pneumonia.
    THe CDC doesen’t care if you die from pneumonia, they just want the flu vaccine makers to make more money. One maker has only made $6.1 billion so far this year.
    THey can’t make as much from pneumonia vaccine because one dose protects most people the rest of their lives.

  9. Gregorio Fune says:

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