Bird flu

By All Means, Let's Try to Start Another Flu Panic

The World Health Organization needs its own tabloid

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Waiting for a comeback
Credit: Lynn Kelley Author / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

A new strain of bird flu has killed a handful of people in China, and while Western reporting on the situation has been fairly mild so far, The Sydney Morning Herald captured a World Health Organization (WHO) official in China trying to describe the strain in as fearful a way as possible:

On Wednesday Keiji Fukuda, who is leading researchers for the World Health Organisation in China, said they were still trying to understand the virus but it appeared "unusually dangerous".

"This is definitely one of the most lethal influenza viruses we have seen," said Dr Fukuda, the WHO's assistant director-general for health security. "We think this virus is more transmissible to humans than H5N1," he said, referring to the strain which WHO estimates has killed more than 360 people since 2003.

There have been 108 cases and 22 deaths since the beginning of April, which seems like a lot if you don't consider the quarter- to half-a-million deaths worldwide WHO attributes to influenza each year.

Most recall the panic over swine flu back in fall 2009 (random hand sanitizers everywhere may serve as a permanent artifact). The number of confirmed deaths due to swine flu ended up being much less than predicted, less than 20,000 according to WHO and Centers for Disease Control estimates (though experts believe there may have been many, many more deaths in third-world African and Asian countries that weren't counted due to lack of access to health care).

It seems a bit early for researchers to be pulling out superlatives like "most lethal" and "more transmissible," particularly when comparing it with a strain of flu that has killed just a hundred more people over nine years than a collapsing building in Bangladesh did just yesterday.  

In 2009, Jesse Walker analyzed how the swine flu panic fell a bit short in actual citizen panicking.

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  1. All those bureaucrats have to justify their salaries somehow, you know. Panics work.

  2. We have hand sanitizers on every floor of my office building, and two in the cafeteria. They are filled with delicious ethanol gel.

    1. Stuff makes great napalm.

    2. I hate those things. Everybody has a little bottle of hand sanitizer on them and they still get sick with the same frequency as they did before.

      Find a more permanent totem to ward off disease. Maybe a pendant to a saint like Agrippina of Mineo. Not only will she protect you from bacteria, but also lightning and leprosy. Let’s see purell do that!

    3. I like to keep my hands clean so that I don’t spread grimy shit like other peoples’ food residue, fecal matter, and skin grease all over my stuff. And I have never used one of those damn public hand sanitizer things because they themselves are grimy.

    4. Last time this came up, we discussed the merits of getting drunk on the stuff.

  3. The number of confirmed deaths due to swine flu ended up being much less than predicted, less than 20,000 according to WHO and Centers for Disease Control estimates

    Hold on there. I’ve heard that subsequent study found that H1N1 killed about 10x more people than previously estimated.

    Of all the scaries out there, the flu scare is probably the legit scare. Deadly flu pandemics happen regularly. H7N9 has probably already spread from human to human and it is unusually lethal. Granted we don’t know how many people have it and haven’t reported as such.

    1. Note the parenthetical comment afterward.

  4. I fell ill during the H1N1 scare, though not of the flu. Nevertheless I was told to wear a mask.

    The staring was annoying but nobody stayed in my way for too long. I should think about getting a few more masks and wearing them when I’m running late.

    1. The staring was annoying but nobody stayed in my way for too long.

      That’s probably because your doctor meant for you to wear a disposable paper mouth and face mask, not a studded leather gimp mask.

      1. Can we compromise on a Nixon mask?

        1. Or perhaps a Poe mask.

          1. No, no, no. A luchador mask. I even have one sitting on my desk right now.

            My luchador name is “El Pollo Loco”. Come on, everyone tell us your luchador name!

            1. “Gringo Malo”

              1. El Mulatto Heroico

                1. You’re not even trying!

                  1. “El fabricante de la silla” doesn’t really work, either.

            2. I vote for one of those great big bird-beak masks that medieval healers would wear during the Black Plague.

  5. If I remember correctly, multiple WHO scientists were being paid by drug companies at the same time they were warning about swine flu. Talk about conflict of interest.

  6. “Most recall the panic over swine flu back in fall 2009 (random hand sanitizers everywhere may serve as a permanent artifact).”

    I can’t wait for bacteria to become sanitizer-resistant.

    1. According to a prof I had some already have.

      1. oops, I meant antibacterial soap

    2. I thought all the hand sanitizer came out with sars or something else way before 2009.

      Anyway, anything can be flushed away with alcohol or scalding hot water.

      1. Hand sanitizer is just alcohol gel.

  7. Capitalism is a wonderful system. But there are several problems that occur with it, and one of those is the tragedy of the commons, and that creates problems for people who treat capitalism as a religion. Another problem is the problem of the mob. Suppose there was a deadly disease spreading through your town and a company had the vaccine, but, in order to turn a profit, it had to charge 500$ for it, and you didn’t have 500$, would you break into the factory and steal it? Of course you would, because the life of you and your family are more important than your “ideals.” We need the government for certain things.

    1. Why wouldn’t I just kill everyone in the town and burn it to the ground, and then move my family to a cabin in the woods?

    2. “Suppose there was a deadly disease spreading through your town and a company had the vaccine, but, in order to turn a profit, it had to charge 500$ for it, and you didn’t have 500$, would you break into the factory and steal it? Of course you would, because the life of you and your family are more important than your “ideals.” We need the government for certain things.”

      Yeah, the government is pretty good at theft.

    3. American’s luchador name is “Culo del mundo”.

      1. This is America. Speak English.

          1. Well, actually English is for Northwest Germany 😉

        1. *Report*
          *Sexual Content*
          *Graphic Sexual Activity*
          *Submit*
          *Thank you for submitting your report.*

          1. U mad, bro?

            1. It may seem like its just a joke to you, until it happens in your community.

              1. until it happens in your community

                What is the antecedent for “it” in this phrase? I’m legitimately lost here.

                If it’s twerking the sentence becomes very weird.

                “Twerking may seem like twerking is just a joke to you, until twerking happens in your community.”

                1. Uh, I think twerking has been long established in my “community”. jesse’s “community” too, for that matter.

                  1. Psht, I think the male form of twerking would be “dick slangin’” (SFW, but would be embarrassing to be caught watching)

                    I reject that one can wear jeans and effectively twerk.

                    1. Yeah, those are some DL brothas….

                    2. Is wearing loose fitting clothing and flailing your cock around in front of a half dozen friends not heteronormative? I can’t keep track of y’all’s social expectations.

                    3. Is wearing loose fitting clothing and flailing your cock around in front of a half dozen friends not heteronormative?

                      Don’t ask me, I was never a big ‘sports’ guy. Who knows what the fuck goes down in those locker rooms.

              2. Twerking happens in my community, and I sure as hell am not complaining

    4. How is the tragedy of the commons inherent to private ownership?

      1. The solution to the tragedy of commons is to make everything commonly owned.

        /Derp

    5. So he breaks in and steals it. Saves himself and his family, then he goes to jail. The next guy then learns that if he doesn’t want to end up jail, don’t let himself get into a situation where he can’t afford a $500 medicine.

      Where’s the problem?

      Oh I get it. You think the government should give away the medicine for free. So why would anybody work to afford the medicine? And if nobody works to afford the medicine, who creates the medicine in the first place?

  8. Handful? You need a lot more than that to make a handful in China. Sounds more like a pinch.

  9. So at what point is a failure to get a flu vaccine dangerous or stupid or aggression?

  10. I caught the avian flu back in ’09. Nasty, Nasty stuff. Couldn’t walk or move for nearly a week.

  11. It’s past due time for another flu panic. Yay!

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