Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Overreacting? WHO declares unprecedented "Phase 5" outbreak

The World Health Organization (WHO) "declared a Phase 5 outbreak" for the first time ever, on fears that a global outbreak of pig flu is imminent. (MSNBC)

Seems a little extreme to Pound360, but we're not world health experts.

It seems that the Mexico outbreak (which was declared just seven days ago), has peaked. After the death toll hit 150 four days after the outbreak declaration, just 10 people have died (during the last two days). And while 2,498 are believed to have gotten sick in Mexico, just 1,311 "suspected swine flu patients" remained hospitalized.

Pound360 wonders how these figures will be absorbed by the overall annual numbers. Look, every year, 250 to 500,000 people die from the flu, so this hardly seems like a serious problem. A pandemic, maybe. But how is that necessarily a big deal?

Well, Egypt thinks it's a big deal. They've slaughtered 300,000 pigs. That despite the fact that "epidemiologists stress it is humans, not pigs, who are spreading the disease."

Historically, we've had much bigger problems. A 1957 flu outbreak killed two million. In 1968, an outbreak killed one million. The 2003 bird flu outbreak killed 257.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.