Friday, June 05, 2009
Bit of a long one this week. The Friday Fuckwit is an emotion . .yep . ."PANIC" , "PARANOIA", "OVERREACTION" or "FEAR MONGERING" . . you choose the right term but frankly, this Swine Flu business is out of control, ridiculously overrated and blown out of all proportion. I'm all for precaution especially if it's potentially life saving but when an outbreak is announced in Victoria (last week) all hell breaks loose . .children are advised to stay away from school, tourists are deterred from travel, mass events are cancelled . . please . .can we start using another emotion, say PERSPECTIVE . . and put it all IN!
Recently a cruise ship was halted outside Sydney harbour while testing for about 12 passengers was completed. It turned out none had Swine Flu . .all had regular influenza or heavy colds yet the whole voluntary quarantine thing seemed like overkill. I'm a little concerned at the paranoia surrounding this disease. Yes, it's a new strain. Yes, it's debilitating. No, it's barely preventable since influenza is a constantly mutating virus and anyone who's had a preventative flu injection can tell you that it doesn't necessarily stop you becoming afflicted. So, with around 12,000 people worldwide affected and 79 deaths as a result of influenza complications, why is this being considered a pandemic?
Here's the next stupid suggestion in a flagging economy - let's ban - bangarang in the middle of the footy season - all public gatherings and events (they'll be disinfecting money next!). This in an effort to prevent the spread of influenza. The rub however, is that in any one year up to 26,000 Americans will die from the flu . .normal, everyday, self-mutating flu. (Sorry no WHO stats on Australia). So why are we so paranoid about this strain. Remember SARS? We were all going to cark it if we came within 2 metres of a chicken.
The swine virus that is at the root of the current outbreak is called H1N1—the same labeling given to the virus that caused the devastating 1918-19 flu pandemic. But not all H1N1 flu viruses are created equally, and the swine virus appears to be quite different from all other H1N1 viruses. However, all adult deaths from swine flu have occurred only in Mexico and one recently in the US, despite the growing number of cases in other countries. This raises serious questions about the outbreak there, especially in light of the fact that adults elsewhere who are affected by the virus and who are treated within 30–48 hours of the onset of flu-like symptoms are experiencing full recovery from their illness. Could it be that the Mexican health authorities are not quite on top of their game, or perhaps those affected are leaving medical attention too late?
I'm not deriding the seriousness of this disease which is mutating by the moment and apparently is a strain of swine, human and bird flu never encountered before but an epidemic? It barely gets a mention in Europe, has been received with abject paranoia in the US and Australia. Everyone keeps banging on about the Spanish Flu but that occurred long before the advent of antibiotics.
Frankly, people do not 'die' from influenza, they die from infections resulting from the disease or heart conditions exacerbated by high temperatures which cause fibrillation. If caught in time in healthy adults it can be mitigated by the administration of antibiotics and paracetamol to control fever and the injection of the latest vaccines.
Swine flu has killed 2.5% of the people who contracted it. The most deadly influenza virus is still the H5N1 flu virus which is still surfacing in Asia and in Egypt. The H5N1 Bird flu virus has killed over 50% f all the people who contract it even when they get medical treatment quickly. So how come we're still all flocking to Thailand and Vietnam?
Panic responses have been rife: In China, more than 70 Mexicans were quarantined despite showing no signs of the flu, prompting charges of discrimination. In Egypt, more than 300,000 pigs were slaughtered despite the fact that no cases of the flu have been reported in the country - and that you can't get it from eating pork. In Australia a ship load of tourists were held at bay outside the harbour until testing determined they did not have swine flu. Your standard everyday flu, by contrast, kills more than 100 people a day, and yet it is largely treated as a fact of life, not a grave threat.
The conspiracist in me suspects that much of this adverse publicity may be benefiting the drug companies. No, really! Yes. Roche Holding AG’s Tamiflu and GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s Relenza both react against swine flu.
So, you make up your own mind. To my mind, we need to just put this all into perspective, sure it's serious, sure you need medical attention and treatment but for goodness sakes, it's not the bubonic plague. Fear my friends is a great controller.
It's a long weekend in Sydney (not that I'd notice) so have a good one folks. . .raise your glass to the Queen (Victoria apparently) and enjoy the three days off!