Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine flu thoughts

Yes, we've been inundated with news about it recently, and in case you've somehow missed it, here is a story about Mexico's fear of swine flu, here is how companies are dealing with possible swine flu labor force effects, here is a video about a flu ward being too risky for a reporter to enter, here is how to make music out of the swine flu gene, here is a question and answer session about swine flu, here is Spain worrying about the swine flu, here is Joe Biden giving his take on the swine flu and how to protect yourself, here is a first-hand account of fears in Mexico, here is where the swine flu is, and here is a bit concerning swine flu and flying. And that's all visible from the front page without scrolling down. Seriously.

My thoughts:

- All we've been fed is statistics about the number of cases and the number of deaths. These mean nothing by themselves. The important figures that need to go along with these are comparable diseases and their potency. According to Wikipedia, with good ol' normal influenza, "the worldwide death toll exceeds a few hundred thousand people a year." I'm also fairly certain that within the U.S., the toll is in the tens of thousands every year, though I can't find anything to back that up. But these numbers need to be kept in mind when considering the scope of swine flu.

Of more importance, though, is the potency of swine flu. No matter how widespread swine flu becomes-- if the death rate of swine flu victims is less than traditional influenza, is it something that should ever be dealt with over and above traditional influenza? Absolutely not, and that's the beauty of economics in dealing with health issues-- we can get at appropriate paths of action without placing a value on human life. Nonetheless, I haven't see percentage numbers. Perhaps N is still too small at this point. But I'd like to see exactly how much worse this swine flu is compared to other sicknesses.

- I'm not going to get worried until a healthy adult in America dies from this illness. Children, the elderly and anyone else with less-than-full-strength immune systems are more at risk for every sickness; swine flu is no different. Could a healthy adult die? Sure. But do past instances of supposedly deadly, human-race threatening diseases being overestimated lead us to believe that this might fall under the same category? You betcha.

- I wonder if the WHO is more likely to declare a disease more risky around budget determining time? I don't know who supports them, but that would be an excellent paper.


Anonymous said...

what would "N" be equal to: 2?

Sounds like an interesting paper with solid results buddy

Anonymous said...

The one death in the US appears to be a child with other health problems that was visiting from Mexico. The World Health Organization puts the death toll at 7, last I saw.

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