Thursday, April 30, 2009
Poke The Pig
I'm no doctor, but...
Well, I suppose I am, but I'm no expert in infectious disease or public health. So this is me just being some guy.
As we get more and more inundated with swine flu numbers, it's worth noting (although I don't know in what context to put it) that influenza of the non-swine variety kills about 36,000 Americans annually. This is not to say that the danger of swine flu is being exaggerated. People much more knowledgeable than I are concerned, and properly so. Steps need to be taken. But I'm guessing that there'll be a widespread sense of panic well before the numbers approach anything near the "background" mortality that already exists with essentially no comment. I think some of the worry is based on not knowing exactly how lethal is this strain; and the fact that vaccines haven't been developed for it.
Along that line, ol' Joe Biden got into trouble for saying he's telling his family to avoid planes and trains. Immediate outrage from the travel industry; speedy "correction" from the White House. Well, heck, wasn't he right? If you want to avoid contracting or spreading an airborne infectious disease, don't you want to stay out of crowded and confined spaces?
It illustrates the difficulty in dealing with such a thing. Effective measures (again: speaking from no particular authority) to prevent an epidemic involve actions which have complex and, in economic terms, negative consequences: close schools, stay home from work, avoid public places. Right in the middle of trying to get the economy going. If you impose those things, and there's no epidemic, some will say "good job," while others scream (as they are about Joe) "overreaction." What's a leader to do?
Damned if I know.