Science

Swine Flu Death Projections and Complacency

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The Christian Science Monitor on Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology projected "90,000" swine flu deaths possible:

The problem with dire warnings, though, is that the complacency scientists are in part trying to break may be caused by the very studies they tout – the crying wolf syndrome. The avian bird flu predictions in 2005 included estimates of millions dead. Worldwide, 282 people died.

Accordingly, after swine flu fears abated this spring, only 1 in 8 Americans is now worried "a great deal" about the virus, according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll this week…..

"Scientists walk a very fine line in how much information do we give: How much do we want to make people aware versus how much do we want to downplay it?" says Sarah Bass, an expert in health-risk communication at Temple University in Philadelphia.

In Tuesday's report, released by President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the 90,000 deaths figure was couched as a "possibility" rather than a prediction. Annually, about 36,000 Americans die of the regular flu, according to CDC estimates.

Jesse Walker wrote for Reason Online on the notable--yet largely unnoted--lack of panic about swine flu back in the spring, and why it was a good thing.

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  1. "Scientists walk a very fine line in how much information do we give"

    Scientists should be truth seekers/givers. Such "line walking" is done by others.

  2. Risk communicator Peter M. Sandman addresses the swine flu pandemic and complacency in his essay:

    Why Pandemic Complacency Isn't Okay
    http://www.psandman.com/col/swine-old.htm#complac

  3. No one has ever received a commendation for accurately predicting a non-event.

    However, many careers have ended for "failing to see the signs"...

  4. Still waiting for H1N1-Z the version that turns people into zombies.

  5. I was tested for swine flu last week. Negative, but not for lack of symptoms.

  6. Still waiting for H1N1-Z the version that turns people into zombies.

    It struck last fall, and was asymptomatic except for voting behavior.

  7. The Oldham county school district has decided to report the number of swine flu cases detected in the school system, but refuse to indicate which schools have been affected. They say parents don't need to know if their kids' school is affected.

    Parents are pissed.

    One more reason supporting my desire to homeschool...

  8. We do homeschool (which eliminates all of the stupid school system postures on pretty much any issue) but are trying to get some rational scientific information about swine flu risk versus vaccine risk. My concern is with the balance between "Swine flu is coming everybody head to go get your mandatory government-sponsored inoculations" and the possible risk in the vaccine itself given the shortened development/testing timeline (and no, this is not a general aversion to vaccines in and of themselves - I don't have that particular mania). Given the already strange feelings about how much information to disclose, is there going to be a similar dearth of information on the vaccine?

  9. Reason has a history of pushing vaccines for without question. On this one issue their position seems to have been "trust the government and trust big government or else you are a unscientific luddite." It now seems the obvious propaganda coming out of the government has made some at Reason more aware that the constant lobbying for more mandantory vaccines SHOULD be questioned.

  10. Scientists should be truth seekers/givers. Such "line walking" is done by others.

    Johnny Cash?

    Seriously, tho, who do you think does or should do this "line walking"?

  11. "the 90,000 deaths figure was couched as a "possibility" rather than a prediction. Annually, about 36,000 Americans die of the regular flu,"

    while the 90,000 is an eye grabbing figure, how many among us knew before the H1N1 epidemic that 36,000 Americans die annually of the "regular" flu?

  12. Seriously, tho, who do you think does or should do this "line walking"?

    I think politicians, clergy, and others who believe "you can't handle the truth" do it.

    Who do *you* think *should* do it?

  13. I think everyone *does* it.

  14. "It struck last fall, and was asymptomatic except for voting behavior."

    Yeah, but at least the majority of voters were not infected. 😛

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