Thursday, November 19, 2009

Swine flu prevents more flu deaths than it causes.

Excerpts from: Cobbling Together a Crisis Even as the swine-flu epidemic has peaked By Michael Fumento

The latest hype is based on the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 22 million Americans have been infected with H1N1 swine flu from the outbreak’s early-April beginning through October 17. (Though the word “sickened” hardly applies, since about a third of cases are wholly asymptomatic.) Of those, the agency says 4,000 have died.

Put in perspective, through a comparison with garden-variety seasonal flu, these figures aren’t at all alarming; and the CDC’s report indeed provides seasonal-flu data. But perspective is the alarmists’ enemy. . .

The CDC estimates 5 to 20 percent of the population (15 to 60 million people) gets the flu in a typical year, with almost all cases occurring from January through April. That’s as many as 15 million a month, compared to 22 million spread over half a year.

What’s truly unprecedented about this swine flu is its incredible mildness. The CDC estimates seasonal flu annually kills 36,000 Americans, again spread over four months. That compares to 4,000 swine-flu deaths in the current cycle. The seasonal-flu death rate therefore ranges from 0.06 percent to 0.24 percent, while the CDC estimate puts it at only 0.0182 percent for swine flu. So seasonal flu is three to twelve times deadlier per case. . .

Even more telling, though, is that the bottom has fallen out of new infections. Test samples doctors have submitted to CDC-monitored surveillance laboratories went from 26,000 two weeks ago to 21,000 last week to just 13,000 at present. Further, progressively fewer of those samples have actually shown flu. Overall, the number of positive samples has plunged over 60 percent in just two weeks.

But could these indicators start to shoot up again? Not likely. According to Farr’s law, named after 19th-century epidemiologist John Farr, infectious disease patterns follow a bell curve. . .

And that should actually prove to be good news. Consider that even without a vaccine, Australia along with New Zealand reported significantly fewer flu deaths than in normal years. Why? As I mentioned above, the newly released CDC estimate of infections and deaths in the U.S. indicates that seasonal flu is anywhere from three to twelve times deadlier than swine flu. Other data, including data from New York City, also indicate that swine flu is far milder. Yet swine flu spreads more easily, essentially outcompeting seasonal flu. In doing so, it’s essentially acting as a vaccine against its far deadlier cousin. (The father of vaccinations, Edward Jenner, observed something similar: Cowpox protected dairy workers from the often-deadly and horribly disfiguring smallpox.)

Swine flu, therefore, prevents more flu deaths than it causes.

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