30 April 2009

Doing my epidemiologic duty

Before I post anymore on books, yarn, my cats, or anything even remotely fun I'm gonna have to do a little PSA about swine flu aka H1N1 flu.

1. The number of cases reported with this strain is a drop in the bucket compared to the number of flu cases reported every year with seasonal flu. If this were truly a killer flu nearly every person who has contracted the swine flu in the US would be dead right now rather than 1 out of about 250 (and that kid brought it with him from Mexico). Also, Mexico is still undergoing it's regular flu season right now - they're probably seeing plenty of seasonal flu strains, too.
2. The precautions being advised to prevent infection with swine flu - handwashing, cover your cough, using kleenexes insetad of hankies, staying away from sick people, etc. - are the EXACT SAME as the precautions you should be taking to avoid getting sick at all. The same - you can prevent catching the common cold this way. Amazing.
3. If you actually have symptoms of influenza (high fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, rhinorrea, etc) you need to stay home. If you have to go to the doctor, call ahead and tell them your symptoms so they know you're coming. This is important regardless of whether you have swine flu or seasonal influenza because, guess what, the symptoms are EXACTLY THE SAME. Do not go shopping, to the movies, the theatre, bars, etc. Stay home (if you haven't been to Mexico/have close contact with someone who was in Mexico and is now ill then you probably don't have swine flu you have either a cold or seasonal flu).
4. Do not listen to anyone who says the 1918 flu pandemic killed hundreds of thousands. That's a known fact but completely unrelated in this case. Times change and we change with them. Medical epidemiology and medical care has advanced light-years since 1918 and we have a far better understanding of how the influenza virus works and far better supportive care.
5. You cannot (repeat: CANNOT) get swine flu from eating pork or pork products. This is why the leaders of the state of Iowa have started calling this thing H1N1 flu instead of swine flu; too many people with absolutely no idea how influenza viruses spread have been shooting off their mouths and now have incited panic among the world's pork importers/exporters (I even read a report that someone in Egypt is going to start culling hogs). Get real people. There are plenty of parasites, etc., that you can get from eating undercooked pork. So if you want to freak out about pork, freak out about worms and then cook your pork thoroughly.
6. Calm the frick down, people. Use your head for what the good Lord made it - rational thought. Wash your hands, don't put your fingers in your mouth/touch your face, and go about your business.

End of lecture. Visit www.cdc.gov if you're really having a panic.


  1. I wanted to thank you for posting this. I've since posted excerpts from it to deprogram panicky friends, and it's been very helpful. I really have no aptitude for biology, chemistry or medicine, yet it continues to astound me how much more I seem to know osmotically about it compared to otherwise brilliant, informed friends of mine.

  2. You want more? I've got tons!

    And you're welcome - I hate "bad science" and people who use it so I try to head off bad science usage or misunderstandings when I see them (maybe that's my superhero power :O ).