Cry for me, Argentina

I’m a tiny bit concerned about Swine Flu.

Now, in a lot of ways it’s not that big a deal – don’t let yourselves get caught in the hype. It’s more infectious than ‘normal’ influenza, but the death rate in most places is no worse than normal flu.

Let me break that more simply. The CDC says that in a normal year, some 36,000 people in the US will die from influenza and complications from influenza. CDC also says 5 to 20% of the population gets infected every year. If we use 12% (not too far from the midpoint), then we wind up with a death rate of 1 in 1000 cases. (300 million people gives about 36 million influenza cases. 36 thousand is one in 1000.)

WHO maintains a regularly updated report of cases and deaths. Now there may be more cases unidentified, but we’ve got some numbers to work from anyway. In most places (such as the US) we get a death rate of around 1.7 per thousand. While it’s a bit worse than ‘normal’ it’s not devastating. (He says, knowing every death will hurt.)

Now CDC thinks when this thing comes back through – and it will as I’ve discussed before – we’ll see some 90,000 to 120,000 deaths. In other words they’re expecting 20 to 30% infection from this.

The apparent problem is that CDC is also saying this is four to eight times more infectious than normal flu. The reality is that those numbers I quoted above? They’re for cases where people went to the doctor. There is an unknown but certain number of people who didn’t go – either they were stubborn, or the symptoms ‘weren’t that bad’ or something. When I say 1.7 in 1000, I mean of the cases that were bad enough for doctors to test and identify. It could be 1.y in ten thousand. It could be 1.7 in 1,500. We Do Not Know, other than knowing there’s an issue.

The other thing that worries me is Argentina (thus the title). See, Argentina is getting peculiar numbers in the more recent reports. Specifically, instead of 1.7 per thousand they’re getting 1.7 per hundred. Now it’s possible there are ten times as many people not going to the doctor when ill. It’s possible there are a number of non-fatal cases needing identified. It’s possible the tests are faulty and there’ve been fewer swine flu deaths. It could be something in the environment.

Or there’s the scary possibility. The possibility that the bug has mutated and is, indeed, ten times as deadly. I’m going to keep watching Argentina, and more importantly other nations with which Argentina deals regularly, to see if this continues to be a fluke.

Hopefully this is nothing, or it goes nowhere. Of course even if it does this is going to be an ugly flu season, so i’ll take normal precautions. But, well, it might be worse, so I’ll watch.

Just in case.

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