Panic! We're (Not) All Going to Die!

Brace yourself. The World Health Organization has eleveated swine flu to "Phase 6," classifying the virus as a pandemic. (This is not to be confused with Phase IV, when hive-mind ants roam the Earth in search of blood.)

Be afraid:

The announcement essentially warns WHO's 194 member nations to expect the arrival of the new flu strain, which is likely to infect up to one-third of the population in the first wave and return in later waves over the next several years.

"The world is moving into the early days of its first influenza pandemic of the 21st century," Margaret Chan, WHO's director general, said this morning. "We anticipate that this action will raise many questions and that often these questions do not have simple answers."

But not too afraid:

WHO says its pandemic announcement would not mean the situation was worsening, since no mutations have been detected in the virus to show it is getting more deadly....

"A move to level 6 is not a verdict on the severity of the virus," she said. "It simply means that the extent of global spread now fulfills the definition of a pandemic."

Both articles are worth reading to see how bipolar the World Health Organization can be. They understand that their announcement will worry people, but they don't really want to worry people, but people need to be worried, but it's important not to overstate the danger, but the danger could suddenly increase without warning at any time. Part of the problem, as noted above, is that the criteria for pandemic status have more to do with geography than with severity, making them somewhat counterintuitive for those of us who aren't epidemiologists. This is a problem that the World Health Organization is only beginning to fix.

Snuggle up next to a HEPA filter with some flu meds and your favorite mask and check out some of Reason's panic-free swine flu coverage here, here, here, and here.

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  • francis||

    I've had enough of your two-faced fearmongering! Ever hear of the boy who cried wolf? What would you say in a real pandemic!?

    Stop encouraging this disgusting behaviour. You ought to know better.

  • Kyle Jordan||

    Hell, this is just Nature's way of capping executive pay in the private sector. So the fucking idiot liberals should be all for it!

  • flugger||

    Don't blame the WHO, they're just being honest. It's the media that jumped the gun on this one.

  • ||

    I read that marijuana is a cure for the swine flu. So it should be legal any minute now, worldwide, right?

  • ||

    Part of the problem, as noted above, is that the criteria for pandemic status have more to do with geography than with severity



    And this itself is a relatively recent change in the definition, going back to 2005. Previously it did require severity and deaths. So while the declaration may have some merit, the idea of "first declared flu pandemic since X" doesn't.

  • ||

    I like this intern's style. You should keep him on.

  • Spellchecker||

    Eleveated?

  • Shannon Love||

    A big part of the problem is that the general public has a poor understanding of helpless we are in the face of a serious, easily communicable viral illness. The only effective treatment for viral diseases is vaccines. Once you have the disease, especially once your seriously symptomatic modern medicine can't do much for you except keep you hydrated and keep your fever down.

    I think a lot of epidemiologist are seriously unnerved by this vulnerability. They know that if something like the 1918 influenza does come back it will spread around the earth in a matter of days and we will have no actual treatment for it. . I think they have a hard time trying to communicate our vulnerability without sounding like doom is just around the corner every year like clockwork.

    In a way, they're kinda like astronomers warning about the possibility of asteroid impacts.

  • ||

    From my epidemiologist in training girlfriend who cant post at the moment

    ---"Well, maybe you could remind the Reason team the case fatality of the flu (number infected who die from it) is not the same as the number infected.

    Pandemic is a descriptor for how far and fast a disease is spreading. It means a hill of beans to most people if they miss a week of work and then are fine. A pandemic of lung cancer, for example, would be catastrophic. A pandemic of influenza mostly effects very old, very young, and people with serious underlying conditions like asthma and diabetes.

    My computer is crazy so can't post, but you could distill that into some libertarian-friendly phrasing."

  • nattering popinjay||

    what about the andromeda strain?!?! asteroids + virus is the ultimate pwntage of all our IRLs!

  • LarryA||

    Why do I get the impression it's WHO's budget season?

  • ||

    but you could distill that into some libertarian-friendly phrasing

    Nobody really cares if there's a "pandemic" of head colds, so WHO shouldn't use that term for anything that doesn't have a serious mortality rate. Which this strain of flu doesn't have.

    I'm guessing its budget season at WHO.

  • fyodor||

    Might as well call the common cold a pandemic.

  • ||

    OH MY GAAD!

    GET TO THE FRIGGIN BUNKERS!

    WHERE ARE MY WHORES?!!!

  • David Letterman||

    "WHERE ARE MY WHORES?!!!"

    You mean Sarah and Willow?

  • No Name Guy||

    So their definition has to do with geography. Well, they need to change their definition to match public perception of what a pandemic is (e.g. bodies all over the place).

    On the way into work this morning, the radio was saying something like 150 deaths out of 27k confirmed cases. REAL deadly - all of 0.55%. I'd like to know how that compares to the normal flu, especially in vunerable groups (elderly, cancer stricken, etc.)

  • ||

    Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.

  • Chrystal K.||

    Is swine flu anymore dangerous than the regular flu that we're used to?

  • Anna||

    The word pandemic sounds very scary, but it basically means that the virus is spreading rapidly...right?

  • ||

    For an organization that supposedly tries to help third world countries, the UN sure is making Mexico grab its ankles on this one. If the US didn't pay so much of the budget for the UN and WHO, I would say that the WHO should pay Mexico a few hundred million dollars to compensate for the drop-off in tourism caused by this fear mongering.

  • ..||

    "this action will raise many questions"

    Ooh! I have one! What's the capital of Kentucky?

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    That Phase IV allusion is fANTastic. Next, please work The Helstrom Chronicle into a discussion of immigration.

  • ||

    Watching CBC News (Canada) talk about this today the takeaway I got was that this level of official pandemic warning includes potentially 11,000-58,000 dead.

    I hope I misunderstood. Wildly.

  • roy||

    yeah... but Tamiflu sales doing fine!

    'coz nobody at the WHO has worked for Roche before...

  • roy||

    in fact the bets are on the WHO being a bigger bitch for Big Pharma than the Treasury is for Goldman Sachs....

  • ||

    Watching CBC News (Canada) talk about this today the takeaway I got was that this level of official pandemic warning includes potentially 11,000-58,000 dead.

    Considering that the average mortality from the flu in the US alone is around 30,000 per year, color me deeply, deeply unimpressed.

  • long island gal||

    Always be aware to the people that you are with most especially if you are working in a company or whatever or wherever you may be that is crowded. Some people may not know that they have it, so it would be better if you make yourself secured. Using masks are very helpful and bringing along some sanitizer or alcohol. Taking a bath before going outside and before sleeping.

  • Guy_Smiley||

    Using masks are very helpful and bringing along some sanitizer or alcohol.

    I suggest we all self-administer some ethanol, and forget about it.

    The side-affects of Tamiflu are the same as the symptoms of the flu.

    I look forward to the government mandated Tamiflu treatments. That should work exactly as well as the "economic stimulus".

    These viruses do not exist.

    "To eat with unwashen hands cannot defile a man." --Jesus

  • RaboK||

    Wasn't that graphic used on the cover of The Economist like three months ago?

  • The epidemiologist girlfriend||

    For "Is swine flu anymore dangerous than the regular flu that we're used to?" - The profile so far is not much different from the regular influenza that we get every year.

    For "The word pandemic sounds very scary, but it basically means that the virus is spreading rapidly...right?" - Yes, that is right.

    Pandemic is an alarming word, but we just have to remember to ask pandemic of what disease? And how lethal is that disease?

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