Is Swine Flu The Next Great Plague?

1478 words - 6 pages

The last great plague to sweep the humanity was the Black Death or Bubonic plague, which killed 25-75% of the population of Europe in the late 18th century. Last month the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology announced that 30 to 50 percent of the entire U.S. population could be infected with swine flu this fall and winter. The report said swine flu is a "serious threat to our nation and the world." Could this be the next disease to decimate the global population? Or are emotions running rough-shot over reality? As we take a closer look at the finalized infection and mortality rates from swine flu, we'll discover that reality is far less scary than predictions.The numbers are alarming at first glance. The council estimated 1.8 million people could be hospitalized, and up to 90,000 could die. The forecast is more than twice the annual average of deaths typically associated with the seasonal flu, and those occur mainly in people older than 65. Swine flu or influenza A (H1N1) as it is formally know, has struck down far more people under 65 than seasonal flu does. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is the peak US government body monitoring the disease. Its website states that as of August 28, 2009, it had recorded 8,843 hospitalizations and 556 deaths in the US associated with 2009 influenza A (H1N1) virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) says at least 2,185 people have died worldwide after contracting swine flu, now the most prevalent strain of influenza. It has been detected in nearly every country in the world, meeting the criteria of a pandemic. Surely such high numbers from these impeccable sources are beyond rebuttal. Or are they? Sometimes the true story lies behind the numbers and the headlines that they generate.The infection and death rates are certain, but the projections are simply educated guesses."These speculations have no firm scientific basis, only a historical precedent from almost a 100 years ago and epidemiologic data from recent circulating virus patterns," said UCLA's Dr Peter Katona, an expert on infectious diseases. The point is underscored by the extent of the outbreak in Australia, which is near the end of the pivotal winter flu season. After initial forecasts for more than 3,000 deaths among Australia's 22 million people, the H1N1 epidemic appears to be peaking after 147 deaths. "So far, the epidemic has gone as well as we could expect," Government chief medical officer Jim Bishop said. Perhaps more important, there are no sign that the virus has mutated into a more deadly form.It was back in April when US Health Dept declared a health emergency following scores of deaths from swine flu in Mexico, the disease's initial epicenter. Yet that was a preventative step as acting Health and Human Services Secretary, Charles Johnson, explained. "The declaration allows us the flexibility, while we learn more about the virus and its impact in the United States, to take additional steps to fully mobilize our...

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