Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 27, 2009

Overdone Flu Panic

All this news about the 'pandemic' swine flu seems overdone. But it is of cause a pretty sensational issue that has the benefit to distract from the U.S. torture debate.

A good update on the real situation can be glanced through this twitter feed.

There seems to have been an outbreak in early April in a small town in Mexico which resulted in some 20+ confirmed and 140+ suspected flu death. These seem to have been primary infections - i.e. people near huge factory pig farms in La Gloria, Veracruz State caught this first. So far only 10% of the 1,300+ total infected in Mexico died.

It is not astonishing at all that a virus transfer from pigs to humans could happen. Pigs and humans have  very similar organisms. All conspiracy theories around this have so far no factual ground.

The virus seems to be able to transfer from man to man too but probably in a less severe form. There have only been few death cases yet outside of Mexico and the total non-Mexican infections are in the lower dozens. In this globalized world a real pandemic outbreak would likely ramp up faster.

There are wide ranging estimates of 'normal' U.S. death through flu per year from a few hundred up to 60,000. This because a flu is often the 'last drop in the bucket' that kills a person with already severe medical conditions. Therefor the total numbers from Mexico and elsewhere may turn out to be just be a statistical irrelevant blip. Certainly not every death of people who had the virus in the blood stream was caused by that.

We do not yet know how well those people who died in Mexico were before the flu infection caught up with them and how well the medical care was they got - if any. But it is likely that they were already in relative weakened state and had little care.

For all the above reasons it is very unlikely that this will turn out to be a re-run of the 1918 flue pandemic. Today we know much more about virus infections and how to fight them. We know much more about epidemics. Even if this would be a serious one, which I doubt very much, I am confident that we could handle a real one pretty well.

Now lets get back to the real issues. Why again did the U.S. torture people?

Posted by b on April 27, 2009 at 18:55 UTC | Permalink


Pandemic means "WHO" get chunks of money and Murdoch Press can scare the shit outta the sheeple.

What was your question BTW?

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Apr 27 2009 18:58 utc | 1

It is interesting that people betwee 20 and 50 are dying from the swine flu more than the very young and elderly, but I read that is what happened during the Spanish Flu pandemic of the late 19teens.

BBC has some comments from people in Mexico, and medical personnel reported than doctors and nurses have died from this flu. Now I need to find the link....

Posted by: jawbone | Apr 27 2009 19:22 utc | 2

Following b's Grist link to the Apr 6 story in La Journada. As I read the article (poorly) in Spanish, the outbreak actually began in mid-March but authorities were slow to respond.

@jawbone re the odd demographics of mortality in the Spanish flu. I once heard an explanation that the flu provoked an overreacton in the immune system, and this overreaction could be fatal; therefore, young people with stronger immune systems died more frequently. Wish I had a more technical explanation.

Posted by: small coke | Apr 27 2009 19:41 utc | 3

It is lower than 10% it is 6-7% and that is the mortality rate for people who develop pneumonia as a complication, not 6,7, or 10% of all the people who catch the bug. It is difficult to determine what the complication rate is because its the fucking flu. People do not waste their time or their money going to the doctor for the fucking flu.

We are being diddled by CorpsMedia and CorpsPharma.

And I am repeating myself.

I feel so much better now.

Saying that may tempt the fates.

Making the sign against the evil eye, crossing fingers, and other rituals of aversion.

Posted by: rjj | Apr 27 2009 20:00 utc | 4

Obama's exposure is apparently not total bunk, and a great way to ratchet up the overkill coverage:

"The outbreak coincided with the President Barack Obama’s trip to Mexico City on April 16. Obama was received at Mexico’s anthropology museum in Mexico City by Felipe Solis, a distinguished archeologist who died the following day from symptoms similar to flu, Reforma newspaper reported. The newspaper didn’t confirm if Solis had swine flu or not. "

if there's any conspiracy, it's the way news corporations prioritize news, especially when there is a glut of damaging headlines that exposes this nation's recent leadership as sadistic psychopaths incapable of understanding the uselessness of torture for gathering intelligence or as a deterrent. has torture killed more americans than 9-11? if you accept that torturing detainees has been used by "terrorists" as a recruitment tool, then yes it has.

but, is there the will, especially among Obama's supporters, to pressure him to do the right thing? do we even care about the rule of law in this country, or have we simply accepted that our rulers will do what they want?

i was talking to a woman who is an ardent supporter of the new administration at a dinner party over the weekend. i asked her if she thought the DOJ would go after folks for torturing people. she said, unequivocally, yes, it was going to happen. it's getting harder to be polite in these situations. i said i hoped she was right. she replied that she knew she was right, because Obama is a great man. i rolled my eyes, drank my wine, and left it at that.

all these fuckers on the news channels who say Obama has too much on his plate to expend the political capital to do his fucking job should be waterboarded 5 times a day for a month. as previously pointed out, the DOJ is obligated to prosecute these crimes. there is more than enough evidence to move forward. screw a truth commission. if that's the recommended route, then it's clear justice will be scuttled once again to preserve the exceptional position of the US as the most dangerous rogue nation on earth.

as turns out, we are the one we've been afraid of; morally retarded, philosophically shallow, and spiritually empty.

Posted by: Lizard | Apr 27 2009 20:07 utc | 5

I'm sorry. b. was clear, rational, and much more accurate.

I was having a mini-bezerker for personal reasons.

Posted by: rjj | Apr 27 2009 20:16 utc | 6

There is no doubt that the MSM, Homeland Security and the WHO are blowing this way out of proportion and scaring the shit out of people, but I don't believe it's a distraction from the torture least not a distraction for The Masses. Most people don't give a shit about the torture debate. It's now been framed as a debate about policy semantics. It's no longer aquestion of "is Waterboarding torture?" No, now it's a question of whether excessive waterboarding constitutes torture. 99 times is okay....but 101 times and you may have gone too far, but even that's okay because it wasn't specified in your torture manual, so you were just following ambiguous orders.

Physical, mental and emotional abuse of prisoners is torture, and torture should not be acceptable, in any form. It should be illegal and a war crime. That should be the debate.....and it's not.

Most people don't even care about that much, though. Nope, they're too busy protecting their tenuous corporate jobs and ratting out their fellow co-workers. They're too busy drinking themselves into oblivion and watching American Idol and Survivor. They're too busy being unproductive to worry about some stupid torture debate and its implications for them. They don't think it will ever happen to them because they're Americans.

Posted by: Obamageddon | Apr 27 2009 20:40 utc | 7

The coverage is overdone, yes. However, some organic/biological or nanotech pandemic (tho not necessarily hitting humans directly) is one of the likeliest ways that an 'apocalypse' could come about, from now on. So of course people, reporters, and governments are hyper-interested in it.

Posted by: Cloud | Apr 27 2009 21:03 utc | 8

cloud #8: "So of course people, reporters, and governments are hyper-interested in it."

Interested in parts, but not much in dead microbiologists last few years nor the 6 pack coffins prepared for FEMA at big taxpayer bucks.

Posted by: plushtown | Apr 27 2009 21:13 utc | 9

Link for BBC comments mentioned in #2 above.

Posted by: jawbone | Apr 27 2009 22:48 utc | 10

Let's assume you're correct, Nicole (of course, you're not), what do all those trained torturers do now (hate to be their spouse or child)? Do they shut it off? I don't think so. Nicole, have you ever heard of Fort Benning (formerly The School of The Americas)? Want to know where all those big bad Mexican cartel decapitators were trained? That's right, Fort Benning. In the past, the U.S. would train other countries' militaries (more like private mercenary armies for crony capital) to do the torturing. Now, the U.S. prefers to do its own dirty work. If you want it done right, do it the motto goes.

Oh, and last time I checked, bin Laden was still at large. Also, a war against a concept and/or tactic (i.e. Terror) is a war with no end. There will always be an Al Qaeda (a progenitor of terror), in some form, or another. That genie's not going back in the bottle anytime soon. There are many more wishes to be granted.

Posted by: Obamageddon | Apr 27 2009 23:09 utc | 11

@jawbone & small coke

It is interesting that people betwee 20 and 50 are dying from the swine flu more than the very young and elderly, but I read that is what happened during the Spanish Flu pandemic of the late 19teens.

One of our body’s defenses is a chemical messenger, called interferon, that tells other cells that they are under attack from a virus and instruct the cells to self destruct/commit suicide to inhibit the virus’ reproduction. Both the 1918 virus and the H5N1 virus exploit these defenses and use them against us by coaxing interferon to proliferate and kill healthy cells as well. Those people with the strongest immune systems are most vulnerable. “Bird Flu, A Virus of Our Own Hatching” by Michael Greger. (An excellent book and resource for viral information in my opinion)

@b and others,

I believe you are correct on most all points you make and we should take to heed of b’s final statement/question, Now lets get back to the real issues. Why again did the U.S. torture people? .

But I must differ from you in my belief that this is of far more significant than you imply.

Virus are a phenomenal “living” organisms. They have a built in genetic mutation behavior. Virus can and do mutate incredibly fast. Days, weeks, their regeneration period is brief and ferocious.

As such they can wreak havoc on we humans when the find the key to our vulnerability and their mutation rates probabilistically favor them finding our achilles heel. The 1918 influenza pandemic was such a case, growing in the close confinement in the soldier’s and refugee’s camps . Large scale confinement where the turn over rate is enhanced become the breading grounds for just the right viral mutations to be the one that we’re susceptible. Anybody every played with computer run genetic algorithms?

Further, from the tin foil hat point of view, virus are apt guinea pigs for experiments in genetic engineering. Can anyone doubt that chemical/biological weapons labs scientists’ haven’t experimented with virus. They are just too intriguing to not play with for the psychotic.

The media only tells us the truth when it just happens to enhance their agenda. And they use those truths to substantiate their credibility which we all know is nil. I see the flu scare scenario’s as a chance to enhance their credibility and prepare us for some upcoming event that they have planed but few of us have yet any awareness.

I encourage all to educate yourselves about influenza pandemics. Greger’s book referenced above is an excellent starting point. The 1918 event was so horrific that the traumatized public immediately suppressed it from conscious memory once it abated. H5N1 has a mortality rate of 50%. The 1918 mortality rate was 5%. The stories from 1918 will so repulse sensibilities that you won’t even want to contemplate a ten fold increase in severity.

It is but it isn’t just a PR diversion. Don’t ignore what it isn’t.

Posted by: Juannie | Apr 27 2009 23:58 utc | 12

It's premature to conclude that the threat is exaggerated. If the virus turns out to have a high rate of spread and a high death rate in those infected, sounding an alarm may turn out to be the correct course of action. We just don't know yet. The anecdotal evidence from health workers in Mexico City is that the death rate in young adults is high. It's difficult to interpret this without an assessment of the total number of cases.

There should be better information in a day or two, but at present it seems wisest to suspend judgment.

Posted by: Roger Bigod | Apr 28 2009 0:57 utc | 13

It's premature to conclude that the threat is exaggerated.

No, I don't think it's premature. Considering the source, and its predilection to exaggerate and sensationalize, I believe it's a safe bet to say this is yet another exxagerated and sensationalized story......and "twitter" only exacerbates the mania.

This is not to preclude anything Juannie just mentioned. All of that is grounded fact and good advice, but excuse me if I don't take Pravda's (the MSM's) bait.

Posted by: Obamageddon | Apr 28 2009 1:22 utc | 14

Juannie- nice post.

It's odd in a bad way how quickly humans forget those things that pain them. I suppose it's helpful when dealing with grief, but sucks when dealing with political malfeasance – we are too quick to forget recent screwings.

The Abu Ghraib torture was reveled in 2004, five years ago. Are americans more, or are they less, opposed to torture now than they were then?

Thanks to our wonderful and violent media, most people think anyone who speaks while being tortured are pussies... even though most of these idiots couldn't go a day without watching their damn T.V. and not crying about the "pain" they are suffering.

If you could reach each ass whose ass fills the pew in some midwest mega-church and explain the entire concept of torture to them and how evil it is, you might find them receptive. But I doubt it. Most people don't give a damn about the guy that lives next door, let alone some guy who looks (to the midwest soccer mom) like some fictional Disney bad guy.

Very few adult humans have had to physically submit to another human in their life and don't know how humiliating submitting leaves you feeling. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to be institutionally tortured... It makes my mind reel in disgust and horror from what those poor humans must have felt, must feel.

Now I feel all warm and fuzzy :(

Too many americans think the death penalty is a good thing – they are all to happy to watch some asshole fry today – not realizing they're libel to be on tomorrow's menu. We're a violent country that so easily dismisses our little Eichmann moments everyday. I can't believe some of the shit I find funny... makes me realize I've seen far too many Bugs Bunny cartoons where violence is the punchline. HeeHee, HawHaw, watch that poor bastard get hit in the jaw.

Posted by: DavidS | Apr 28 2009 1:31 utc | 15

I lived through SARS, here in Taiwan.

Scared the shit out of most, back then. To this day, you can see hundreds of people each day wearing their masks out in public. SARS did that; it established a culture of "if i'm sick with a cough, i'm gonna wear a mask to protect you all from me." That existed somewhat before, but it's much more prevalent now.

SARS didn't scare me much because i wasn't in the demographic likely to be hit, the mortality rate was very low, and it wasn't easily spread from human-to-human.

From what i've heard about this Swine flu, though -- it scares me. 200 people dead in a month, in a single town? Fuck. 33 people died in all of Hong Kong during SARS. People were scared and screaming everywhere, back then. 200 dead, now, in a small-ish Mexican town that's far, far less dense than anything found in Asia? Whoa.

I'm not fanning the flames, but i don't think this is something that can be easily pooh-poohed as a tempest in a teacup. Not yet. The SARS scare continued for six months, and the disease vectors developed steadily during most of that. We've only seen the first wave of this, so far. It's not clear how well it spreads from human-to-human, but it's influenza. The Spanish Flu killed millions world-wide; they weren't but a drop in the bucket when reckoned against the world population, but putting a loved one who was young and healthy only 15 days ago will fuck you up. It's nothing to sneer at, and it quite clearly could happen.

We had Avian Flu/SARS, and now only a few years later, this. Clearly, the bugs are marshaling themselves for a full-on assault, and it's going to come some time soon. That makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint; human beings have become far more pervasive and filthy in their influence than cockroaches could ever hope to be, and Mother Nature is indicating her intent to do something about it. Will it be the Apocalypse? This wave certainly won't be, and we're pretty sure we can contain anything that aspires to that role.

But that said: the fear is real, and it has little to do with the Media. All they've done, so far, is report something that rational people have every right to worry over. I live in Taipei, Taiwan, one of the most crowded and population-dense places on the planet. If swine flu arrives and starts hopping from human to human, there isn't much i can do besides stay indoors and hope it passes me by.

So for my part, i'm glad to be hearing these reports.

But beyond that, i agree with b's greater point: none of this is any reason for us to stop doing what we'd be doing anyway. It's not like we'll be able to make things better or save ourselves by fretting and brooding over this.

That's the WHO's job, but as long as we're at it i think we should also be pressing to have Tamiflu released under an open-source license. It doesn't make any sense to have a pill that can be manufactured for fractions of a penny -- and which could potentially save tens of millions of lives -- only be available to a scant few members of the US/UK elite. People like the Cheneys and Bushes certainly don't deserve them, so maybe it's time we started pointing this out.

Ultimately, there will be no justice until Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Bush are in prison -- preferably an Iraqi one, run by a few of Saddam's ex-guards. Do y'all really think it silly or shallow to point out that precisely those sorts of people stand to gain a great deal from the world-wide misery an epidemic will some day bring? For my part, i don't. In fact, it fans my anger even more.

So let's be sure to keep the pressure up.

Why did the U.S. torture?

Well, we don't really know the answer to that; but so long as the people responsible go free, and continue to reap great proft off of other people's misery, then the U.S. is simply an evil system, run by evil people, and -- since it's a democracy -- populated by evil citizens, and nobody in the world will be able to take anything it says about human rights or political freedoms seriously.

Posted by: china_hand2 | Apr 28 2009 2:04 utc | 16

Damn. Did it again:

...but putting a loved one into the ground, who was young and healthy only 15 days before....

Posted by: china_hand2 | Apr 28 2009 2:09 utc | 17

Doesn't matter if the "'pandemic' swine flu seems overdone" as b writes, what matters is how to profit of of it...

Swine Flu = Emerging Market Opportunity? (Amid the swine flu outbreak hitting Mexican companies, Bill Stone of PNC Wealth Management told CNBC that this might be a great opportunity for investors to enter into the emerging markets.)

they can't wait at the thought of a pandemic, dirty money to be made!

Oh, and The World Health Organization raised its pandemic alert level to Phase 4 today...get in on the death market quick! Sick People = Sick Markets

Also, CDC confirms swine flu in Fair Oaks student

Published: Monday, Apr. 27, 2009 - 11:57 am
Last Modified: Monday, Apr. 27, 2009 - 1:26 pm

A seventh-grader from a private school in Fair Oaks has tested positive for swine flu, Sacramento County public health officials confirmed this morning.

The sample from the St. Mels School student was tested at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and came back positive, making it the first confirmed sample in Northern California, county Public Health Officer Dr. Glennah Trochet stated in a news release.

"No fear, quarantine plans eerily reminiscent of Camus' "La Peste" have been established by bureaucrats and adopted by local Boards of Health and county and state governments across America to deal with a situation such as the one now unfolding, which, like terrorism, is always presented as "not a matter of if, but when.""

It's going to be a long hot summer...

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Apr 28 2009 3:35 utc | 18

Thanks typepad for swallowing my links, I'll not repost it. Are you fucks happy?

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Apr 28 2009 3:37 utc | 19

Thanks china_hand2 for your overview.

Posted by: Auskalo | Apr 28 2009 3:39 utc | 20

An interesting angle: HuffingtonPost reports that when the economic stimulus bill was up for a vote in the Senate, Republican Senator from Maine Susan Collins insisted that funding for "pandemic preparation" be removed from the bill in return for her "aye" vote.

How does this piece fit into gaming a pandemic? The notion that political gaming may be involved does not negate the possibility that the virus has the potential to become dangerous. But that's an unknown as yet.

As B observed, at present it is up to professional medical researchers to observe intensely and plan. Present media alarms are disproportionate. There is danger in sounding alarms too loudly and too soon. If a lethal, mutated virus emerges later, the public may have relaxed its vigilance. The problem of crying wolf.

As for Collins, there is no way of knowing why Dems want to fund "pandemic preparaton" so much more than Collins and GOP. The way budgets work, that description could cover either defensive health measures or aggressive biowar development. If I thought my government might even contemplate wargaming biowarfare options, I'd be much more comfortable with underfunding "pandemic preparation". And biowarfare requires defense also - outcomes will be disastrous, should one unleash a pathogen from which one is not well defended in advance.

But I doubt that was the GOP's reason for blocking the funds.

FInally, is it odd that this detail of funding seems to enter the discussion through Huffington Post? Will it gain traction in MSM?

Posted by: small coke | Apr 28 2009 4:21 utc | 21

It's quarantine that raises immediate flags. Have some countries already started a quarantine program? Uncle, wish you would try again to post that one link.

Under Homeland Security, at a site called (Unknown to me, looks like SAIC type of contract work.)

Some mathematical models of quarantine for flu show that there must be a nearly perfect degree of limitation of travel to be effective. Other analyses suggest that these measures do not have to be absolute to be effective. Modeling exercises suggest that partial quarantine can be effective in slowing the rate of disease spread, especially when combined with vaccination.

The short incubation period for influenza makes it difficult to identify and quarantine contacts of pandemic influenza-infected persons before they become ill and have spread infection to others. By contrast, the longer incubation periods for smallpox (about 14 days) and SARS (up to 10 days) make this a more effective control strategy for those infections. Consequently, quarantine is unlikely to be an effective measure in controlling pandemic flu.

In general quarantine has been ineffective, at the most postponing epidemics of influenza by a few weeks to 2 months and even the most severe restrictions on travel and trade have gained only a few weeks. The exception was Australia, in 1918, when maritime quarantine was instituted. This delayed the onset of illness in Australia until 1919 when the virus appeared to have lost some of its virulence. The subsequent epidemic was of milder illness but longer duration than in other countries. Nonetheless, 60% of the mortality was in people aged 20-45 years.

Influenza is predicted to be very difficult to control even with 90% quarantining and contact tracing because of the high level of pre-symptomatic transmission. Quarantining and contact tracing for influenza would probably be infeasible because of the very short incubation (2 days) and infectious (3-4 days) periods.

Posted by: small coke | Apr 28 2009 5:14 utc | 22>some relevant chitchat over at Feral Scholar, feel free to chime in

CAFOs were linked to avian flu outbreak, to the E Coli spinach scandal, and now to the mutated swine flu outbreak.

and yet (surprise surprise) no one in the mainstream media wants to talk for 5 seconds about the CAFO ag model and the role of CAFOs as unintentional, unlicensed and unsupervised biowarfare labs for the rapid mutation and evolution of animal viruses.

Posted by: DeAnander | Apr 28 2009 6:33 utc | 23

The subsequent epidemic was of milder illness but longer duration than in other countries. Nonetheless, 60% of the mortality was in people aged 20-45 years.

But were the morality rates lower?

The quarantine issue they need to attend to are the immunosuppressed: cancer patients and people with organ transplants who will be supersusceptible. They will also become reservoirs.

Posted by: rjj | Apr 28 2009 7:44 utc | 24

National Propaganda Radio this morning stirred some spooky spice into this viral plot. If the swine doesn't git ya' this spring... next fall prepare to DIE!

Now that would be convenient wouldn't it? Right about the time the commercial real estate market is supposed to bust and the economy tank further, the booga-booga bug scare to keep ya' movin' on past the economic mess... Keep yr eyes out for those little terrorist microbes and please ignore those of us looting your country. Thank you!

Of course no thread on a virus would be complete until the Monty Python troop ask us to "bring out the dead"

Posted by: DavidS | Apr 28 2009 12:23 utc | 25

Another aspect of this flu episode and hype is the disguise of the real disasters being bred by the large scale confinement of animals.

There are some interesting distinctions between the H5N1 (avian flu) virus and today’s H1N1 (swine flu) virus. There was no where near the hype surrounding the H5N1 flu episode and this H1N1 episode. And that is interesting because the avian flu had a mortality rate of 50% whereas this swine flu appears to be substantially lower. The hype on the avian flu was that it was spread by wild migratory foul when in actually it originated and was spread out from commercial large scale confinement facilities for chickens. The major media effort was to shift blame.

There are 3 conditions for a virus that must be met to initiate a pandemic:
1 a new virus has to be encountered by humans so we have no or little immunity.
2 it must evolve to be able to kill humans efficiently
3 and it must be able to jump efficiently from human to human.

The one factor that thwarted the H5N1 virus was the last requirement. It never evolved to be able to jump efficiently from human to human. Most human cases were from close contact with infected animals. The present H1N1 flu virus has learned the trick and it appears that it spreads easily and quickly but has a smaller mortality rate among humans. (I haven’t seen any official mortality statistics on H1N1 so I am making a qualitative estimate from the reports I’ve read of deaths vs infections.)

My main point is that humans have created the conditions that favor rapidly evolving virus. Eventually, if these conditions aren’t eradicated, we will have to face a highly virulent virus that will not only create a pandemic but one with a mortality rate high enough to dwarf all other pestilence heretofore known to our species, even worse than the 1918 pandemic that became the deadliest plague in human history.

The almost certain source of H1N1 are the confinement facilities for swine. The avian and swine virus are similar and both are presently being bred and unwittingly nurtured in similar large scale confinement facilities. These facilities must be investigate, regulated and brought under control or it is just a matter of time before what none of us even want to contemplate happens. I really don’t expect the system to make any meaningful efforts in that direction. I guess we’re just watching one more domino of empire and civilization falling and shattering.

Again I recommend Bird Flu by Michael Greger

Posted by: Juannie | Apr 28 2009 14:08 utc | 26

Just for the record. The first 'confirmed' case in Spain, a 24 years old young man that recently returned from Mexico, is going to be released today from the hospital (in fact he was already released late yesterday but then they wanted to run more test, likely just the vampires getting a bit of extra blood to experiment with). It looks like they are really SO worried about the virus spreading around and killing millions.

I don't have the actual confirmation but a good guess is that current fast confirmations are only based on tests for A-type flu, which may be uncommon or rare in humans (but not impossible so positives when doing random sampling may be possible). A similar guess would be that they can run tests on current strains and they say it's 'confirmed' if the tests fail to identify the strain. Testing for H1N1 or the actual 'new' strain in Mexico (I wonder if it even exists) may take longer and require top of line labs.

Why is all the scary information (FUD) about deads being spread by mexican authorities in a incoherent way? I remember with SARS/avian flu how the WHO was always around the cases. This time we hardly see any report mentioning the WHO doing anything other than considering or actually raising the danger level.

Posted by: ThePaper | Apr 28 2009 14:13 utc | 27

This because a flu is often the 'last drop in the bucket' that kills a person with already severe medical conditions.

Yes, the US numbers are stupendously exaggerated. Moreover, most die of *bacterial* pneumonia, a consequence of the flu, so it all depends how you count.

The information from Mexico is very garbled and unclear. But this is normal, what with protective Gvmts, a hungry, slavering media, flying rumors, and the fact that sequencing the virus from proper samples etc. takes time. These are situations where many weeks, months, are needed to obtain any clear picture. Meanwhile, everyone speculates and mixes everything up, scare mongerers have a field day, officials re-affirm their usefulness, big pharma sees profits, statesmen reassure, etc.

@ jawbone, small coke:

Spanish flu (bird flu also btw) > the death of healthy young adults, as opposed to children, the weak, the elderly, etc. is often explained by the : cytokine storm>flu wiki and here, from Revere, whom I recommend for patient and clear pedagogy>link and also here>link.

Posted by: Tangerine | Apr 28 2009 14:23 utc | 28

@Juannie - worse than the 1918 pandemic that became the deadliest plague in human history

No - the deadliest plague in human history was The Plague, i.e. the black death that killed half of Europe's population.

Posted by: b | Apr 28 2009 14:29 utc | 29

They use the number of killed, not the percentage to say that it was the deadliest plague in human history. In that case (40-100 million) they are likely true. Of course, on that terms, even common flu or other diseases (colera?) may be killing more people than The Plague ever did due to 6+ Billion humans 'infecting' the world.

Posted by: ThePaper | Apr 28 2009 14:40 utc | 30

TPM reports:

Sebelius Expected To Be Confirmed Today
The U.S. Senate is set to confirm Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary today. Her nomination has been vigorously opposed by anti-abortion groups, but she is expected to clear the 60-vote cloture threshold after a morning debate and an afternoon vote -- and then she will have to immediately get to work to deal with the swine flu outbreak.

Posted by: small coke | Apr 28 2009 16:04 utc | 31

When I see the phrases "swine flu" and "Washington D.C." in the same story... well, I can't help but think it's an expose of political corruption.

"Once again the members of congress, afflicted by yet another outbreak of Swine Flu, have voted themselves another pay raise..

Posted by: DavidS | Apr 28 2009 16:13 utc | 32

Yeah, it's a big conspiracy to distract us from the torture debate. Soon after the inauguration Bush, Cheney and some of their microbiologist minions were seen hanging out on Mexican pig farms.

Yes, the US provides military training to foreigners. Training that is quite good for drug cartel muscle and right wing death squads. But I doubt the US is providing torture training because we're not even any good at it. Most of the countries of the world are far better at torture than we are. Who wants to learn torture from a bunch of fucking amateurs?

I assume many of you have seen Tyler Cowen's comments about pursuing torture prosecution. Here's a link to a reply by Matt Yglesias

What if torturers go to trail and win?

What are you all going to do if they prosecute for torture and find out in the process that for the most part, given the circumstances that Americans while being disappointed with how badly it was done really aren't all that bothered by it? Will you have time to aspirate a lung before your brains explode?

Posted by: Extinct Species | Apr 28 2009 16:43 utc | 33

@b #30. The following quote from Michael Greger “Bird Flu.”

my bold

Calculations made in the 1920's estimated the global death toll in the vicinity of 20 million, a figure medical historians now consider “almost ludicrously low.” The number has been revised upwards ever since, as more and more records are unearthed. The best estimate currently stands at 50 to 100 million people dead. In some communities, like in Alaska, 50% of the population perished.

The 1918 influenza pandemic killed more people in a single year than the bubonic plague (“black death”) in the Middle Ages killed in a century. The 1918 virus killed more people in 25 weeks that AIDS has killed in 25 years. According to one academic reviewer, this “single, brief epidemic generated more fatalities, more suffering, and more demographic change in the United States than all the wars of the Twentieth Century.”

The 1918 pandemic was so gruesome that a form of collective amnesia set in. Most people are more aware of the plague than the pandemic that killed off about 5% of their grandparent’s generation. The eyewitness reports of the horrors were very difficult for me to even read.

As soon as the dying stopped the forgetting began.

...and so continues.

Again b, I don't want us to trivialize this potential pandemic before we might be in the throws of it.

Posted by: Juannie | Apr 28 2009 16:43 utc | 34

Now that bird flu has successfully joined forces with swine flu, it can no longer be said that pigs can't fly.;~)

Seriously though, it's too early to tell how this so-called "swine" flu will pan out. But so far, it doesn't appear to be any worse than, say, the seasonal flu. It's still somewhat worrisome that the mortality rate in Mexico for this flu stands somewhere around 10%, whereas the mortality rate in the US for the seasonal flu is about 1%. But because the air quality in and around mega-hog farms is pretty damn piss poor, it may indeed be the case that an unusually high percentage of Mexicans who contracted swine flu were already suffering from asthma and other asthma-related illnesses, putting them at greater risk of dying from this flu.

So if it turns out that a mega-hog farm in Mexico is the ground zero for this flu outbreak, then developed nations around the globe should band together in a big way and demand that huge hog conglomerates should no longer be free to pollute the hell out of lesser-developed nations. And because bird flu genes have interacted with the genetic makeup of a swine flu virus, producing a human flu virus, then, at the very least, we should demand that mega-sized hog and poultry farms should be kept a safe distance from each other!

Posted by: Cynthia | Apr 28 2009 17:13 utc | 35

Or maybe we should reconsider the whole concept of mega-factory farming altogether. Pls note that animals in these conditions are only kept alive by big doses of antibiotics, that antibiotics also leach out from the facilities to contaminate ground and water, and that antibiotic resistance (a growing problem for our medical technologists) is largely ascribed to two causes: overprescription by doctors (fairly minor contribution iirc) and agricultural saturation (major contributor). So the same practise (CAFO) both reduces the efficacy of our tools for palliative and curative care for bacterial diseases, and fast-forwards the competitive development of new viral strains whose end (and lethal) state is often a bacterial pneumonitis. Someone with more med background pls correct me if I am wrong on this...

Posted by: DeAnander | Apr 28 2009 18:34 utc | 36

Checking some information in>WHO website (see viral gene sequences) and>Recombinomics it seems like the samples being used to confirm the new strain were found in April 17 by the CDC on two unrelated childs from California. That was like 5 dies before the whole thing got in the big news (April 22 to April 23). In the CDC report no reason is given for why samples from those two childs were first tested for known human strains and then sent to the CDC when it was found it was a new strain. The CDC confirmed that it was a new strain with genes from american and european swine flu. The two childs suffered just a common flu with no extra complications. No relation with pigs here (so widespread human transmission was already a given).

I haven't found a clear relation with whatever is happening in Mexico other than the claim that samples from 20 of the early deceased (but no information about ages or dead circumstances seems to be available) in Mexico were 'confirmed' in a canadian lab, I guess using those samples from California. So I don't see a real prove that this new strain is deadly. In fact a virologist in the ElPais (spanish paper) is basically stating that it isn't (and that's why people is being released from hospitals) at this point (it can mutate or recombine with other strains, just as any other flu strain).

The human version of H1N1 has been in fact quite frequent and 'infamous' in the current flu season for a couple of reasons, at least from the information I read in Recombinomics. First in the combined vaccine there was the wrong choice for the H1N1 strain to be used, thus weakening how effective the vaccine would be, and later a H1N1 variant with resistence to those infamous flu antivirals was found in the wild (making the antivirals potentially less useful that they already are). They suggests the danger of the new strain obtaining that gene as it merges in the same host with human H1N1.

Protocol for confirming presence of the new strain is determined at two levels as described in the WHO protocol:

a) Check the gene sequence or use new kit proviced by CDC and other international top labs (4-5 listed, one per world region). Kit or capabilities which I doubt it's right now fully available other than to those 4-5 tops labs. That's defined in the WHO nomenclature as a 'confirmed case'.

b) Use currently available tests for known human strains. If it's found to be an unknown type then it is defined by the WHO nomenclature as a 'possible case'.

It looks like more information will be available in the WHO site tomorrow. But right now it's quite surprising that 1) there seem not be samples around of that 'deadly' mexican strain, 2) information about the 'deadly' mexican epidemy is zero.

Posted by: ThePaper | Apr 28 2009 18:35 utc | 37

@Juannie - Again b, I don't want us to trivialize this potential pandemic before we might be in the throws of it.

I certainly do not want to do trivialize it either. A potential pandemic is no joke. But the media coverage is. Still - this does not look like a pandemic. The numbers are off. This flu has an R of maybe 1.2 or so. Which means each person infected may infect 1.2 other persons. That is low and can be contained by simply informing the public which will bring R below 1 and thereby limit it.

The person to person jump capability of this virus is not that great. Also the only dead so far are in Mexico and came likely from primary infections and at a time when the cause was not yet well identified. Primary infections seem more deadly than person to person infections.

Still - often such virus epidemics have several phases. Once the virus made the jump form animal to man it may take some typical six month until it develops a serious capability to really jump from man to man with a higher R. That would be then a two phase epidemic with a sleeper period in between and the second phase being much more rapid and deadly than the first one. Watch for renewed signs this fall.

The 1918/1919 pandemic killed a lot of people in a short time. The plague killed much more people, in total and especially if you take dead to total world population in account. Some 50 to 100 million out of 450 million total world population died. This was over a longer time and in 7 to 9 waves mostly in Europe. The medieval 'dark ages' are called so for a reason. The 1918 outbreak was small compared to that earlier catastrophe. Especially when one considers the sociological and cultural change it induced.

Posted by: b | Apr 28 2009 18:39 utc | 38

It looks like WHO may move to phase 5 soon as more cases are confirmed in the US and reports about two recent (no date given) deads that may be related to flu in L.A., one 33 and one 45 year old man, initial stated cause of death was neumonia.

It will only move to phase 6 (pandemia) if more cases show up in Europe or another region.

Pandemia of course doesn't implies a high mortality ratio, just widespread transmission around the world of a new flu strain not based on previous human viruses.

Posted by: ThePaper | Apr 28 2009 20:57 utc | 39

I'm a little miffed that Obama and his team want us working stiffs to take "personal responsibility" for preventing the spread of the swine flu, while at the same time, they view it as our public duty to hand over our pay checks to bloated banksters so that they can continue to live high on the hog. If anything, it should be our public duty to fund public health, leaving our banksters to fend for themselves!

Posted by: Cynthia | Apr 28 2009 22:58 utc | 40

so that they can continue to live high on the hog.

I love accidental puns.

Posted by: Obamageddon | Apr 28 2009 23:11 utc | 41

Army: Missing virus samples likely destroyed

Missing virus samples the Army has been investigating were likely destroyed years ago when a freezer broke, according to the Army.

The samples were part of a collection of materials that had been handed down from researcher to researcher as scientists retired, said Caree Vander Linden, spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

The second researcher to receive the collection performed a full inventory and couldn't account for three vials of Venezuelan equine encephalitis, she said. The discrepancy was reported to the institute's safety officer, and eventually to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which triggered the investigation by the Army Criminal Investigation Command.

During the investigation, one of the researchers who'd worked with the collection recalled a freezer failure at one point that destroyed a number of samples, Vander Linden said.

"Everything in it was basically lost," she said.

This occurred before USAMRIID began using a computerized database to track its samples, and investigators could not find a paper record of the event, she said.

Chris Grey, spokesman for the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, said its investigation into the potentially missing samples is still open.

The investigation found no evidence of criminal activity in regard to the missing samples, he said.

The command is performing a mandatory final review of the case before closing it, Grey said. He would not speculate on when the case would be closed.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Apr 29 2009 4:19 utc | 42

Do any of the reports say that the Mexican fatalities tested positive for the virus. How many?

It has been reported that the World Health Organisation (WHO) is dismissing claims of the number of people swine flu has killed in Mexico. [ ]

Local health officials and Federal Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova downplayed claims that the swine flu epidemic could have started in La Gloria, noting that of 30 mucous samples taken from respiratory patients there, only 4-year-old Edgar Hernandez's came back positive. That confirmation that the boy's virus was H1N1 — a strange new mix of pig, bird and human flu virus — wasn't made until last week, when signs of the outbreak elsewhere prompted a second look at his sample. Cordova insists the rest of the community had suffered from H2N3, a common flu.

Now Mexicans have huge incentives to falsify (lie, tamper with the samples) which would make the epidemiology impossible.

Animal health expert Peter Roeder, a consultant to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, said many possibilities exist for how the virus first jumped to humans, and that it could have happened months or even a year ago.

Roeder said it's possible ... [blah blah blah blah]

But that's just a theory — and no one has any evidence that it happened in La Gloria.

"It's all surmise," Roeder said by phone from the Philippines. "The only thing that we know is that we have a virus that is transmitting between people and it is causing some concern, and it has some characteristics derived from swine viruses, avian viruses and human viruses. And that's all we know for sure."

How are pharma stocks doing?

BTW I liked DeAnander's observation that those people close to the supposed source were also exposed to high levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Did a lot of the villagers die, if so, of what, and if secondary bacterial pneumonia that was treated, was the superinfecting organism antibiotic resistant??? Same questions apply to all the fatalities.

Posted by: rjj | Apr 29 2009 9:55 utc | 43

Coding error above. Text should read:

Mr Cordova said that the drop in deaths was due to people taking anti-viral drugs soon after they started displaying symptoms.

Mister Secretary Cordova, is a good friend to big Pharma.

Local health officials and Federal Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova downplayed claims that the swine flu epidemic could have started in La Gloria, noting that of 30 mucous samples taken from respiratory patients there, only 4-year-old Edgar Hernandez's came back positive. That confirmation that the boy's virus was H1N1 — a strange new mix of pig, bird and human flu virus — wasn't made until last week, when signs of the outbreak elsewhere prompted a second look at his sample.

Cordova insists the rest of the community had suffered from H2N3, a common flu.

Posted by: rjj | Apr 29 2009 10:29 utc | 44

The mexican authorities are already in 'retreat mode' and now, along with the official WHO reports, only claim 7 confirmed deads related with the new strain. I wonder if related really implies that it caused the dead or just that samples of the virus were found. No information yet about ages or health conditions of the deceased.

In ElPais (spanish) there is a>report questioning the lack of credible information coming from the mexican authorities. When questioning the top medical staff on the matter, Miguel Ángel Lezana, he moslty downplays the whole thing and repeats the same that is reporting the WHO authorities right now: seven confirmed deads.

Now the question is why the mexican government without even first consulting with the WHO authority and the international experts decided to spread FUD and terror this weekend. How good are the relations between Calderon and the Obama administration? Better than with the Bush junta? Or was this a present to some old friends?

On the other hand I'm just reading that a 2 year toddler is supposed to be the first victim of the new strain in the US. Which would be quite usual, depending on the conditions, even for a common flu. The two young men whose dead was being studied in L.A. were almost immediatly discarded as possible cases. This strain is likely to be already relatively frequent in CA and other border states, just that as no one was really dying it will take a while for a lot of samples to be taken and discover the real number of people that are or were infected. I guess that it could become one of the main sources of the next flu season, unless somehow it becomes able to spread around this spring and summer. The supposed higher rate mortality rate at the 20-50 age range, which would make the new strain similar to the 1918 flu, seems to be for now just a rumour.

Posted by: ThePaper | Apr 29 2009 12:29 utc | 45

How are pharma stocks doing?


Page 6


CorpsPharma, indeed...

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Apr 30 2009 3:37 utc | 46

Speaking of CorpsPharma,
Psychiatric Drugs - An industry of death 6/10 I suggest watching them all.

Broken record PSA:

I can't tell you how much the 'military think' of compartmentalization theory has given the elite competitive advantage based on 'knowledge strategies';Structural and functional compartmentalization fosters terror for profit.

We were terrorized into these wars, we were terrorized into panic. Welcome to the fear economy.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Apr 30 2009 4:07 utc | 47

30 U.S. Marines quarantined

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - About 30 U.S. Marines in southern California on the biggest military base in the United States have been quarantined after one of them was confirmed to have contracted the swine flu virus, the Marine Corps said on Wednesday.

The case was identified at the Twenty nine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center and was confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the base said in a statement.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Apr 30 2009 4:28 utc | 48

Scientists see this flu strain as relatively mild

As the World Health Organization raised its infectious disease alert level Wednesday and health officials confirmed the first death linked to swine flu inside U.S. borders, scientists studying the virus are coming to the consensus that this hybrid strain of influenza -- at least in its current form -- isn't shaping up to be as fatal as the strains that caused some previous pandemics.

In fact, the current outbreak of the H1N1 virus, which emerged in San Diego and southern Mexico late last month, may not even do as much damage as the run-of-the-mill flu outbreaks that occur each winter without much fanfare.

Posted by: b | Apr 30 2009 8:54 utc | 49

Let's keep our fingers crossed, yeah?

But i'm not going to breathe easy until we go another six months without any notable mutations.

SARS probably started spreading in China around mid-to-late October of 2002 (maybe as early as September), and wasn't noticed until early November of that year -- another excellent argument for free, single-payer, universal health-care, by the way: the time discrepancy was due to SARS spreading around silently amongst poor people who had no way to get to a hospital.

SARS didn't start really killing people and threatening to spread into the general population around until late March of the next year -- some five months or so later -- and then that wave continued until the next August or September.

If this flu is just beginning, we've got at least another year before we really know how the disease vectors will ultimately play themselves out.

Posted by: china_hand2 | Apr 30 2009 9:30 utc | 50

Funny how this flu will be able to pop back-up in time for the commercial real estate market to finish crashing come september... maybe the beast should be named "swinladden flu" because it will be able to show back-up at the most convenient times.

And if it doesn't work, the government can always burn thru tax dollars giving us peons a show of force like the Air Farce One flying over NY, NY.

Posted by: DavidS | Apr 30 2009 10:11 utc | 51

The total death toll from SARS worldwide was a bit under 800. Again totally overblown.

All viruses mutate and any of the normal flu viruses can mutate into something more dangerous. It does not have to come from birds or swines to do so.

But this swine flu evidently move the torture debate out of the way ...

Posted by: b | Apr 30 2009 10:25 utc | 52

This is a really good summary, courtesy of the invisible hand.

Have no idea how/where I came across it. Here probably. If so, apologies and thanks.

Posted by: rjj | Apr 30 2009 10:59 utc | 53

I read quite a bit about influenza during the bird flu "boom" a few years ago. We didn't get a bird flu pandemic, but I'm sure we will get a flu pandemic eventually. Is this it? We'll see.

But we do know some things now. As Obama said in his press conference, if you cough, cough into your elbow, not into the open air or your hand. Wash or sanitize (with Purell or equivalent) your hands frequently. Stay home from work or school or crowds or traveling in mass transit if you're sick.

Other things you could do now:

Accumulate food and water at home in case supplies are interrupted.

Download and print out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's home care advice (just as the stores might be empty if this hits hard, the hospitals will definitely be full) - it's at the CDC site, or search for the terms "swine influenza" "taking care of a sick person in your home"

While antivirals and antibiotics require prescriptions, CDC says over-the-counter cold and flu medications will give symptomatic relief (but don't give them to children under the age of two; don't give aspirin-containing drugs to teenagers or younger). You might check that you have some of these on hand, just in case. Aches and fever can be helped with acetaminophen (Tylenol®), ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®, Nuprin®), and naproxen (Aleve).

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. | Apr 30 2009 15:56 utc | 54

I read quite a bit about influenza during the bird flu "boom" a few years ago. We didn't get a bird flu pandemic, but I'm sure we will get a flu pandemic eventually. Is this it? We'll see.

But we do know some things now. As Obama said in his press conference, if you cough, cough into your elbow, not into the open air or your hand. Wash or sanitize (with Purell or equivalent) your hands frequently. Stay home from work or school or crowds or traveling in mass transit if you're sick.

Other things you could do now:

Accumulate food and water at home in case supplies are interrupted.

Download and print out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's home care advice (just as the stores might be empty if this hits hard, the hospitals will definitely be full) - it's at the CDC site, or search for the terms "swine influenza" "taking care of a sick person in your home"

While antivirals and antibiotics require prescriptions, CDC says over-the-counter cold and flu medications will give symptomatic relief (but don't give them to children under the age of two; don't give aspirin-containing drugs to teenagers or younger). You might check that you have some of these on hand, just in case. Aches and fever can be helped with acetaminophen (Tylenol®), ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®, Nuprin®), and naproxen (Aleve).

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. | Apr 30 2009 15:56 utc | 55

I realize that it's the consensus policy at MoA to laugh at tornadoes and scoff at pandemics, so I apologize for this one last cautionary link.

If you might find yourself home alone and ill, here's a physician's advice about getting through it - what she would do now if she had to go through it again:

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. | Apr 30 2009 16:09 utc | 56

For people in good health the best thing would be to get it while the course of the disease is mild in order to have immunity in case it does become more virulent. This would be cheaper, quicker, and perhaps safer than a vaccine.

PharmaCorps best claim is that antivirals MAY lessen the severity and MAY shorten the course by a day or two. Healthy hysterics with adequate immune systems making demands on a short supply of antivirals may deprive those who might get real benefit from them: diabetics, folks with chronic debilitating illness, the aforementioned medically immunosuppressed (cancer chemotherapy and radiotherapy or transplant recipients).

Posted by: rjj | Apr 30 2009 16:52 utc | 57

@mistah charley - I realize that it's the consensus policy at MoA to laugh at tornadoes and scoff at pandemics,

Ehhhmm certainly not. While I may make fun of a panic when the facts say there is no need for one, I certainly care about such issues when the facts point to something severe. As do others here.

Posted by: b | Apr 30 2009 17:42 utc | 58

Also abuse of current antivirals for no good reasons, like trying to stop what seems a mild flu strain, will just allow the virus to obtain resistance even in a very short period. Then if you actually need them they would be of no use (other than to fill someone pockets that will be far and safer than you).

That's what happenned in the current flu season as it seems more people has been using those, mostly useless for the common folk with a three to five days flu, antivirals. It was discovered a few months a ago that current human strains were already resistant to all current antivirals.

Posted by: ThePaper | Apr 30 2009 18:23 utc | 59

Does it begin to feel like a fire drill? Either that or the epidemiologists examining this particular pathogen suspect something that they have not confirmed and are not saying?

This flu may have pretty high "transmissiblity", while unexceptional in its severity (virulence). (Thanks rff@54 for the link to that useful article.) And since it appears new, it can be tracked more readily than flu strains already present in the human pool. (Making it a useful study tool.)

Meanwhle, H5N1, the avian flu which does not seem to have wings (so far), is seriously scary in its virulence and tropism. Epidemiologists are monitoring that one like hawks.

Perhaps, by treating this H1N1 seriously, pandemic specialists have seized an opportunity to test their emergency response infrastructure, tracking methods, the effectiveness of various measures, and to begin to train the public for a real emergency. As well as to enhance political awareness and funding levels for "pandemic preparation."

Or is erring on the side of great caution the default response?

Also, is it possible to distinguish between official healthcare pronouncements and MSM reports?

For the usual winter flus, we don't close schools for a week when one case is detected. Isn't that the official recommendation now for this swine flu?

Testing response planning, hyping for higher ratings, changing the political subject - lots of possible motives for different actors.

Of course, most doctors instinctive reaction to illness is to err on the side of caution. Even so, I know one doctor who is trying, like those at MoA and elsewhere, to understand what has precipitated the immediate uproar.

Posted by: small coke | Apr 30 2009 18:43 utc | 60

Does it begin to feel like a fire drill?


Posted by: rjj | Apr 30 2009 21:40 utc | 61

here is an understated proposal that the mexican/swine flu pandemic may just have been from an "escaped laboratory virus"

ah....sweet sweet conspiracy theories.

Posted by: dan of steele | May 13 2009 19:36 utc | 62

The comments to this entry are closed.