Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Flu By Any Other Name

That's right folks, no more Swine Flu, it's now called the H1N1 virus. Apparently, people are getting their pigs slaughtered - at least they are in Egypt, because they think that the pig is giving the people the swine flu. Also, people are steering clear of buying pork, in fear of getting the flu.
 
Uh, folks. This flu is spread through droplets, and is not an airborne influenza, so if you went out and got yourself a mask, you can leave it at home. Granted comments like this "All of humanity under threat," from the World Health Organization, are doing nothing to dispel any hysteria, in fact those comments are having the opposite effect.
 
But, but Roger, it's at LEVEL 5! LEVEL 5 of 6!!! We're all gonna die!!!!
 
Here is what happens when the WHO raises awareness to a LEVEL 5:
 
Phase 5 indicates that there is evidence of the virus being spread from human-to-human in at least two countries in one WHO region. Phase 6, the pandemic phase, is characterised by increased and sustained transmission in the general population.
 
 Oh and then there is this guy:
 
Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that he would not recommend taking any commercial flight or riding in a subway car "at this point" because swine flu virus can spread "in confined places." A little more than one hour later, Biden rushed out a statement backing off.

"I would tell members of my family — and I have — I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now," Biden said on NBC's "Today" show.. "It's not that it's going to Mexico. It's [that] you're in a confined aircraft. When one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft. That's me. …

"So, from my perspective, what it relates to is mitigation. If you're out in the middle of a field when someone sneezes, that's one thing. If you're in a closed aircraft or closed container or closed car or closed classroom, it's a different thing."

Of course, he REALLY meant this:
 
The White House quickly arranged for Biden to make this statement through a spokesperson.

"On the Today Show this morning, the vice president was asked what he would tell a family member who was considering air travel to Mexico this week. The advice he is giving family members is the same advice the administration is giving to all Americans: that they should avoid unnecessary air travel to and from Mexico. If they are sick, they should avoid airplanes and other confined public spaces, such as subways. This is the advice the vice president has given family members who are traveling by commercial airline this week. As the president said just last night, every American should take the same steps you would take to prevent any other flu: Keep your hands washed; cover your mouth when you cough; stay home from work if you're sick and keep your children home from school if they're sick."

Host Matt Lauer had asked the vice president: "This is by no means a 'gotcha' type of question. … But if a member of your family came to you … and said, 'Look, I want to go on a commercial airliner to Mexico, and back within the next week,' would you think it's a good idea?" Biden made it unmistakably clear he would not want his family to make any trips on planes or subways.

These sorts of comments are what the Obama administration fears from Biden, who after more than three decades in Washington is known for making gaffes.

Which is why people were so baffled when the President tapped him as his Vice President. Of course, it does make any gaffe the President may make, pale in comparison.
 
Now for the good news:
 
As the World Health Organization raised its infectious disease alert level Wednesday and health officials confirmed the first death linked to swine flu inside U.S. borders, 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.
 
See? All is well.
 
Just remember to wash your hands.