Saturday, May 02, 2009

One Flu Over the Cuckoo's Nest

"Candleing" eggs on which influenza virus is grown for vaccine preparations (photo from CDC image library).

A couple of weeks ago I jokingly remarked that I thought I had bird flu. Then after the emergence of the H1N1 variant about 10 days ago I speculated (again with tongue in cheek) that the infection was swine flu. Now I think it was more likely Mad Pig Disease. The 24 hour news cycle seems to have created more journalistic craziness and hysteria than I would have believed possible. Over the past week I've seen more column-inches and heard enough hours of broadcast media devoted to the topic to last me a lifetime. If-it-bleeds-it-leads journalists, dull-as-ditchwater talking heads (often not very knowledgeable), hysterical citizens and even a nasty little cabal of right wing wingers who attribute the outbreak to a combination of illegal immigrants and a ploy by President Obama to push a national health care agenda have been driving me to distraction.

No question, flu is nasty, indeed I believe the 1918 "Spanish Flu" pandemic (also an HINI variant) which may have killed up to 50 million people holds the dubious distinction of being the most deadly infectious disease in human history. However we are not in the post WW1 era and current indications seem to suggest that this current iteration of swine flu is not particularly virulent. While there is a need for vigilance, I just hope this trend continues. In the meantime, maintain droplet precautions, keep washing your hands and taking that vitamin C...

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