Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu Emergency - Or Not


The new swine flu: sounds scary. But what is the reality?

A few dozen people have died in Mexico, and there are some documented cases in other countries. What are we NOT seeing: rapid contagion; an exponentially growing number of fatalities; contagion affecting medical care professionals. SARS was frightening in its lethal spread. So far we are not seeing this with the new swine flu outbreak.

We need to keep on top of the fear mongering potential of this issue. There are real public health threats, which we can discuss as professionals/people interested in public policy; however they overlap with those who would take medium size threats and turn them into opportunities to make money and consolidate power.

Cui bono in each case. I followed the avian flu thing closely and was inside enough to see how that became a money making opportunity.

Whatever this new thing is, is real. It will kill some people. It deserves appropriate attention and resources.

But something like 36,000 people in the U.S. die from regular flu every year; I don't hear a lot of screaming about that, except the one year Rumsfeld's Tamiflu folks tried to manufacture a shortage of vaccine. And don't get me started about other preventable deaths, here and abroad....

So yeah, I am afraid, just not of what you might think: I'm afraid of people who cry wolf so often that a REAL threat in the future would be ignored. I'm afraid of demagogues who advance their own narrow causes by making the rest of us scared, by magnifying a medium size problem into something terrifying. I'm afraid of resources at the CDC and state health boards - decimated during the Bush reign - now being forced into one issue at the expense of others that could save vastly more lives.

The author has an M.Sc. from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health


crossposted at firedoglake oxdown 26 april 2009

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