Swine Flu is now a national emergency

Posted on 25. Oct, 2009 by in Uncategorized

The president announced last week that he was officially declaring the H1N1 outbreak a national emergency. This allows hospitals to open off-site emergency rooms to speed up treatment and protect non-infected patients.

Production of the H1N1 vaccine has been delayed and the disease is now more prevalent than ever. Only 11 million doses out of the 120 million promised have been distributed according to the CDC. They estimate that more than 1,000 people have died in the US from H1N1.

Who knows I may eat my words months from now, but I have yet to believe we should panic over this.

Let’s think about it this way:

According to the CDC
The H1N1 has been compared to the Spanish Flu epidemic from 1918, which killed approximately 50 million people worldwide. This includes approximately 675,000 Americans according to the CDC.

Another pandemic from 1957-1958 in the United States killed at least 70,000. A third, from 1968-1967, killed an estimated 33,000 Americans.

Avian flu, or bird flu, which began making headlines in 2003 after an outbreak in Southeast Asia, resulted in the deaths of 257 people, the majority of whom lived in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. The CDC found no U.S. deaths attributed to avian flu.

What about other headline-grabbing disease outbreaks?

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, spread around the world in 2002-2003, infecting about 8,000 people, of which 774 died, according to the World Health Organization. Of those deaths, 648 were in China and Hong Kong. A few dozen people in the United States were infected, but no one died.

The regular flu kills 36,000 a year.

For now it’s unclear whether virus has mutated to become more virulent, following a similar pattern to the 1918 Flu. But a 1000 deaths so far has yet to even compare to the number of deaths caused by the regular flu. I understand the need to speed up the treatment of H1N1 patients and to create emergency rooms outside hospital setting to control the influx of patients. But I almost wish the terms “DECLARING A NATIONAL EMERGENCY” weren’t used in this case. It’s hard not to jump to conclusions and envision a world decimated by this bug. But the numbers speak louder to me than those words. Again I hope I won’t eat my words in the next few months, but I’ll rely on statistics rather than words this time around.

Comments are closed.