Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bubonic plague. Now THERE'S a pandemic.

Here's a paraphrase of a comment I posted on Pajiba this morning:

150 people dead in Mexico .... out of, what, 108 million? I mean, it's sad for their families and everything, but.. pandemic? Really? I don't think this counts as a pandemic. I don't even think it qualifies as an epidemic. Let's consult Merriam Webster:

ep·i·dem·ic : affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time


pan·dem·ic : occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population


It's less than 1% of the population. Just of Mexico. Actually, it's like one/1,000,000th of the population. Previous pandemics have killed up to 1/2 the population of a given continent (or the human population... let's see, divided by... carry the one... 2/100,000,000th of the world pop).

So, nope.


Then I went to the BBC news website. Here's what it had to say regarding numbers in this "pandemic":
  • Out of 168 deaths in Mexico, only 8 are confirmed to be swine flu.
  • There is 1 confirmed death in the U.S.
  • In the rest of the world, there are a total of 157 confirmed and 13 suspected cases.
Here's the breakdown:
U.S.-109 confirmed cases. That's cases, NOT deaths.
New Zealand-3 confirmed, 13 suspected cases.
Canada-19 confirmed cases.
U.K.-8 confirmed cases.
Spain-10 confirmed cases.
Israel, Costa Rica-2 confirmed cases each.
Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Peru-1 confirmed case each.

So that's a total, then, of 9 confirmed deaths from swine flu, and 160 more possible deaths. Since all 170 of the instances where people have the virus have evidently been reported, one presumes that those people are seeking medical attention and are going to recover, since it's easily treatable. An international panic is happening over 9 deaths.


Let's assume pessimistically for a moment that all 160 unconfirmed deaths in Mexico turn out to be definitely swine flu. And let's also suppose that those 170 other reported cases die as well. That's a total of 339 deaths. Now let's suppose those people have all infected 3 other people each, and those people all die. That's a total of 1,356 deaths from swine flu. Now let's look at the world population: and we'll round down to 6.7 million. Even assuming this, it's still only 2/100,000ths of the population of the world.

Again, look at the definitions of epidemic and pandemic above. To me, an "exceptionally high proportion of the population" is just that... exceptionally high. Like, 25% high. But let's say, for the sake of argument, that 10% can be considered exceptionally high. That means a minimum of 670,000 people need to be infected. We've got 669,661 cases to go before we reach epidemic proportions. Can we please stop panicking about every little thing? Please?

It's no Black Death, people (cripes, it's not even the Hong Kong flu epidemic of '68). Now there's a pandemic for you.

Here's something to make you feel better though:

Aww! Now there's something you could die from... perhaps it should be called the Adorable Death.

(Cross-posted at Vox)


Mr. Controversy said...

Thank you, thank you, THANK...YOU MA'AM!

P.S. I see you're into astronomy. I know a guy that makes telescopes. I could hook you up you know...that's all I'm sayin'. 0:) (Business wise that is, he just got married so my intentions aren't sinister.)

Anna von Beaverplatz said...

Ha! I saw yours right after I posted this. Nice.

I already have a couple of telescopes. I'm not so much "into astronomy" as I am "ooh, that's pretty", though. I kind of wish I was. There's about 10 total constellations I can pick out, and I can actually name about 5 of those. (Wait... is the Pliedes actually a constellation? ... or spelled correctly?)

Jeremy Feist said...

*Sigh* Well, what can you say? I think people have some deep-rooted desire to have the sweet ever-loving jeebus scared out of them.

Lainey said...

While I agree with you about creating drama and labeling it a pandemic rather than emphasizing that it's actually a potential pandemic, I feel like there's not really any other way for this to have gone down. It would have been irresponsible of the assorted governments and media to not extensively cover the outbreak in Mexico and theorize about the potential loss of lives based on past viral patterns. Had they remained quiet and not ramped up prevention strategies, if and/or when the flu (with possible fatalities) was transmitted to other countries, the cry would have been, "OH MY GOD, why didn't they warn anyone??? Why wasn't anything done? We could have saved so many lives had we only had the proper precautions in place!"

I'm *absolutely* not in the Henny Penny category of alarmists, but I would rather our governments be proactive rather than caught with their pants down. You know, like a few years ago in New Orleans...

Lucas said...

Regular flu kills a ton of people each year and I still had to go sing in the Christmas concert when I had it that one time (out of many). Now there's pig flu and entire school districts are shutting down because a kid is sniffling.

Lame. I wish this had happened when I was in school so we could get the time off. Oh well, I guess that was what Columbine and 9/11 were for.

Optimus Rhyme said...

Did you hear they were trying to rename it? Something more medical sounding I guess. The best suggestion I've heard is Hamthrax.
And good on you for blogging more. I always like another time waster. Feed My Addiction!
Oh and I heard somebody call someone Anastasia Beaverhausen and I weirdly almost mentioned you. Then I realized that Pajiba-friends don't exist in the real world. You're like pixies and unicorns. Beautiful and magnificent but just part of my imagination.

Anna von Beaverplatz said...

I'm still trying to finish my real-time review of Lost Boys that I started weeks ago. Seriously.

Also, I do so exist in the real world! Just far away. Though I do poop rainbows, so I'm pretty sure I am still magical like a pixie or a unicorn.

Lucas said...

I'm just now checking the comments of this again. Hamthrax. Optimus Rhyme, you get a gold star.

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