H1N1: Some Perspective

swine1Some people, mostly the media, are freaking out about this swine flu thing. It seems to lead every news story with words like, “death”.  

No one wants to go to Mexico anymore or be around anyone who looks remotely Hispanic and/or looks tanned enough to have perhaps been to Mexico recently.  Mexican produce languishes on grocery store shelves.

The Egyptians  are slaughtering their entire population (300,000) of pigs. China, refuses to buy yummy Canadian pork. Canadian bacon piles up at borders unwanted and unloved.


So, for those who are afraid or confused, I thought a little perspective would be helpful.

Approximately 217,000 people die in Canada every year. The largest percentage of these deaths (approximately 130,000) are from diseases of the circulatory system and cancer.

  • 3,100 are because of motor vehicle accidents
  • 5700 are because of other accidents and injuries
  • 3,700 are because of suicides
  • 8,000 are because of pneumonia and seasonal flu
  • 550 are homicides

Back in 2002/2003 we had the SARS almost-pandemic. Worldwide, 774 people died.

As of 6:00 am this morning 21 countries have reported 1124 cases of H1N1; 26 have died from complications of this virus – worldwide.

The normal every-day flu comes from 3 different strains of virus – A, B and C (no one every said scientists were creative). The annual flu vaccines are for types A & B, the most common.

Nevertheless this seasonal flu causes severe illness in 3 to 5 million people every year across the world and kills between 250,000 and 500,000. Children under 2, adults over 65 and people with medical conditions like chronic heart, lung, kidney, liver, blood or metabolic diseases (such as diabetes), or weakened immune systems are at risk for becoming very ill from the flu. The rest of us will have a crappy few days, lose a few pounds and move on with our lives.

With a little common sense and general preventive measures you can prevent infection of not only H1N1, but most other viruses:

  • Avoid close contact with people who appear unwell and have fever and cough;
  • Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly and often;
  • Practice good health habits including adequate sleep, eating nutritious food, and keeping physically active.

If you do start to feel ill (fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat and runny nose,  maybe even vomiting or diarrhoea), go see your doctor for a diagnosis and he/she will give you an antiviral drug like oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) to make you all better.

OK? Now stop panicking everybody. Sheesh.


26 responses to “H1N1: Some Perspective

  1. From time to time a war is needed to help the weapons industry. From time to time, some flu panic is needed to help the pharmaceutical market… And that’s how the market keeps rolling.

    have a great day…. and enjoy your canadian bacon!

  2. I hate how they’re making such a huge fuss over this. Comparing it to the Spanish flu of 1918.

    Get the hell over it people. It’s nowhere near a pandemic, and there is that little fact that standards of hygiene have changed a lot over the past 90 or so years. And we know much more about how to treat these things.

    Just wash your hands. With that old standby – soap and water. Purell is antibacterial, the flu is a virus – not the same bugs at all.

  3. I for one would be happy to take in some poor unloved Canadian bacon. And seriously, don’t they have scientists in China? Ones who know that you can’t catch the flu from a well-cooked pork chop?

  4. Seriously! The hysteria and stupidity is getting out of hand!

    Did you hear that in China they quarantined a bunch of Canadian students! The students didn’t even go to Mexico beforehand but were sequestered in rooms anyway.


  5. Funny, I was just thinking of writing a similar post. Now I don’t have to. 🙂 Though I will point people towards http://twitter.com/the_swine_flu where you follow the Swine Flu as it plots the domination of the planet, one facelick at a time.

    By the way, did you see that Ottawa has had its first confirmed case of H1N1? http://www.ottawasun.com/news/canada/2009/05/05/9350306-sun.html (What’s funny about the article is the suggestion at the end to have a disaster preparedness kit and evacuation plan in case of emergencies — not a bad suggestion but evacuating is fairly useless in the case of a full-blown, 1918-scale pandemic.)

  6. Guillermo – Yes, this will be a boon to the pharmaceutical companies because they can create a new vaccine!! Ka-ching!

    Bandobras – Interesting point.

    Jazz – The whole Purell obsessions is a whole other story. Little dispensers all over hospitals and doctors’ offices. They seem to be substituting that for handwashing. Now THAT’S kind of scary.

    Alison – Or Egypt. Are they nuts? Slaughtering hundreds of thousands of pigs. What’s that all about? Poor pork farmers are having a melt-down. I shall post your name to the Bacon Refugee site.

    Hannah – (if that IS your real name) – I think the Chinese are just getting back at us for that whole SARS thing and the toys thing and the pet food thing and all the other stuff we’re boycotting from there.

    Louise – Maybe they meant the “other” kind of evacuation?? I understand that can become quite urgent when afflicted with flu?

  7. Damn good post, XUP–if that IS your real name. Citizen columnist Dan Gardner writes about this as well on his blog (www.ottawacitizen.com/katzenjammer).

    But it’s not a pharmaceutical industry conspiracy. Just because it isn’t a pandemic YET doesn’t mean there’s no chance of it spreading. We have no way of knowing until/unless it becomes one.

    – RG>

  8. When you were on Vancouver Island, when all this started, the Lion proudly ate a brunch concoction of 5 different preparations of pork. Take that swine flu!

  9. I am doing my part: Eating bacon. I am not at all worried about getting the flu from bacon. I’m not so sure how well it does my arteries, but I will do my part for canada!

    What I want to know is why CNN insists on calling it the swine flu and then says that it is really hurting the pork industry and people you do not get it from pork. So, CNN, stop calling it the swine flu.

  10. The Fort Worth schools have been closed down as well as some other school districts around here and there have been sports and other extra-curricular closures as well as talk of canceling proms. Also Mayfest was cancelled for last weekend. What did I do during all this? Nothing different. I even ate at Mexican restaurants twice in the last week. Of course if people complain about it being blown out of proportion it’s easy for them to say “Nothing happened because we took all these precautions.” And yeah it’s easy to say “Wash your hands” to people like us (your readers) that already do, but kids? They pretty much suck at it.

  11. Grouchy – I never said it was a conspiracy, just that they’re going to benefit nicely from the hype. Is the regular seasonal flu a pandemic, too? Waaaaaaay more people get that every year. The only difference between the swine flu virus and viruses A, B & C is that we don’t have a vaccine for it. The symptoms sound exactly the same.

    UP – When I was on Vancouver Island??? Huh? Since you can’t get swine flu from eating pork, I really don’t think the Lion can claim super-hero status just yet.

    Hannah – No wonder you fall over (and/or get pushed down) a lot.

    Sheryl – Canada thanks you. Swine flu sounds so much more dramatic than H1N1.

    Geewits – Well it’s good to see Forth Worth has a disaster plan, I guess. Again, I don’t see any difference between this flu and all the other strains of flu out there except that this one has a catchy name and the normal flu vaccine won’t protect against it. Once upon a time we had NO flu vaccines and every once in a while we got the flu, threw up a few times, stayed in bed and sucked jello and maybe had a feverish dream or two. Then we got up and went back to school after 3 days.

    Dr. Monkey – Wouldn’t it be ironic if I was stricken with swine flu now and died? Boy would there be egg on my face then.

  12. I enjoy panicking. I find it keeps me alert and makes other people stay away from me. And I definitely want people staying away if they have the swine flu. Have you heard of it? Apparently it will make you bleed from your eyes and explode. Gotta go. Someone’s coughing. Must kill him. Doing my part here state-side. Good luck to all of you north of the border. Survivors make your way to Minnesota. We’ll meet there to restart society (it’s really pretty there – lots of lakes and stuff.) I get to be King (I called it first.)

  13. Our Fearless Leaders have created a “Pandemic Planning Committee” at work. They make announcements on the company-wide intranet about how to play it safe, to not show up if you’re coughing, etc.

    Right now, there’s a notice, that if you’ve been to Mexico, you CAN’T show up to work until you’ve been symptom-free for seven days.

    In fact, you can’t show up to work if you’ve been in “direct contact” with someone who’s just been to Mexico.

    If you’re healthy you’re expect to work from home.

    Jesus Christ. Talk about fear-mongering.

    (What next…they start banning Taco Bell?)

  14. Wait a minute? I think I and the entire Brock university rowing team knew Hannah’s mother. You may in fact be our daughter.
    Question your mother about this. After all a name like that isn’t very common.

  15. XUP – sorry, I should have specified that my comment about conspiracy was in response to Guillermo’s comment, not your post.

    – RG>

  16. Mayopie – Swine flu? What the hell — I thought it was swain flu. Please ignore this whole post.

    Friar – Kinda makes you wish you’d booked a vacation to Mexico, doesn’t it. All that extra vacation time when you get home AND no one knocking at your door bothering you AND free marguaritas since no one will touch them with a 10-foot Purelled pole now.

    Bandobras – You’d be proud at how well your little one turned out. She falls down a lot, but other than that she’s loads of fun and smart as a whip

    Grouchy – Ah. I think he was just commenting on how serendipidous wars and epidemics can be.

  17. It’s exhausting keeping up w/ news-porn … now that is what’s going to do us all in … exhaustion from too much news-porn.

  18. Wait there is a person in Georgina Ontario quite sick with the h1n1 not to be called swine flu anymore illness.
    This is it people run for the hills washing your hands as you go .
    The end is near. Oh I do believe in God, I do believe in God.

    Um, uh, cancel all that, apparently she’s fairly ill but recovering.

  19. Apparently 1 in 3 of us could get sick with (or of) H1N1 and in a moderately severe scenario, about 2 million of us (Ontarians) could get sick enough to take a day off work.
    If only that many people who are sick with non H1N1 flu took a day a day of work…

  20. The fact is pandemic preparedness looks at worse case scenario, which would look like Spanish flu. It could, in fact, be more like Hong Kong Flu or Avian flu which still made people sick but was much more like the seasonal flu. (Spanish influenza was different in that it caused an immune massive immune response in healthy young adults — as opposed to the infants and elderly we usually see.) So yes, people are freaking out for no good reason.

    I will share this here. One of my coworkers is freaked out because another coworker is going to Mexico. She wants him quarantined for a week upon his return. Yet, she dragged her sick feverish infected feverish ass to work, I pointed this out to her. Her response “Well I don’t have swine flu.” “You could still make people sick.” “well… I won’t kill people with this.” “From what odds are we’d be less sick with swine flu.” Stupidity and panic.

  21. Sindark – That’s hilarious. They built him his own little room and everything.

    Olivia – You might be right. A lot of people are feeling really scared and paranoid. A lot of young people don’t even believe they’re going to live to see adulthood with all the disasters and health threats they hear about every day.

    Bandobras – Perhaps… but she was HOSPITALIZED!!! HOSPITALIZED people. You could die if you’re hospitalized. People die in hospitals all the time. BEWARE.

    Violetsky – This could be good for the economy. All those people off work; they’d have to hire temp staff, employing all those recently laid off. Hurrah! We’re saved … economically…those of us who don’t die first.

    Nat – A week of quarantine isn’t going to do it anyway. I believe this flu can take up to 12 days to become apparent. Tell her that.

  22. this whole thing is stupid.. yesterday i saw a number of confirmed cases in ontario.. i did the math.. the percentage? 0.02% of ontario residents have the damn thing…. not died.. just have it.