It’s the start of flu season and the papers have been letting us know about it. Articles have peppered the front-pages of The Buffalo News, USAToday and the NYTimes concerning the spread of this years newest disease, swine-flu. Everything from the spread, vaccines, and even prevention have been the spotlight. It got me wondering about the flu, flu-season, and if Swine-Flu is really something to worry about.
The typical flu season (November-April) kills about 36,000 people affecting an age group of 65 and older and other individuals with weaker immune systems. The swine flu on the other hand affects all of the above but also children, young adults and healthy immune systems, rare to the usual flu-victim.
USAToday has some interesting coverage on swine-flu with a whole page dedicated to swine-flu outbreaks covered by regions in the United States and as of today there are a total of 50,768 swine-flu outbreaks, 99% being swine-flu related. Google is also having a flu-season counter as they have released a Flu-Trend chart that indicates that this years flu season is at an intense rate already compared to previous years. While the flu-outbreaks have been “intensely” high (whatever that means) according to Google, the number of deaths has been 1,544 according to the National Center for Disease Control. This mortality rate seems low to me considering the media attention it has been getting.
While epidemic diseases have been a very frightening and a great news subject the last few years with the Anthrax scare that killed 5, Mad Cow disease that has killed 188,579, SARS that has killed 775 or Bird Flu that killed 103 in 2006 and now Swine-Flu killing nearly 1,600 to date. To be perfectly honest, these diseases are not a major killers in humans, at least not yet. Especially if one like swine-flu already has a vaccine available. In a recent USAToday article Julie Uehlein, a mother of two, also has doubts of the seriousness of the disease:
“Basically, the swine flu is the flu. I’m not overly excited about it.”
Maybe the focus shouldn’t be so much on swine-flu and other diseases, but on other serious killers that spread even more rapidly such as cancer that kills nearly 7.6 million people globally or traffic accidents that kill roughly 43,000 every year since 2005. I haven’t seen those on the front page in a while.