Pandemic or Pandemonium?
Americans told to be ready for swine flu outbreaks
Reporting from Los Angeles and Washington -- Federal officials declared a public health emergency Sunday involving human swine flu, warning Americans to prepare for widespread outbreaks now or in the future, yet urging them not to panic. [My emphasis for silliness]
In a briefing at the White House, the acting head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Richard Besser, said that eight cases of suspected swine flu in New York had been confirmed and that another had been identified in Ohio, bringing the U.S. total to 20 cases.
- The World Bank estimated in 2008 that a flu pandemic could cost $3 trillion and result in a nearly 5 percent drop in world gross domestic product. The World Bank has estimated that more than 70 million people could die worldwide in a severe pandemic.
- Australian independent think-tank Lowy Institute for International Policy estimated in 2006 that in the worst-case scenario, a flu pandemic could wipe $4.4 trillion off global economic output.
- Two reports in the United States in 2005 estimated that a flu pandemic could cause a serious recession of the U.S. economy, with immediate costs of between $500 billion and $675 billion.
- One report, from the Congressional Budget Office, said hospitals would have difficulty controlling infection and might become sources for spreading the illness.
- A second report by New Jersey-based WBB Securities LLC predicted a one-year economic loss of $488 billion and a permanent economic loss of $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy.
- SARS in 2003 disrupted travel, trade and the workplace and cost the Asia Pacific region $40 billion. It lasted for six months, killing 775 of the 8,000 people it infected in 25 countries.
- Between the autumn of 1918 and the spring of 1919, 548,452 people died of swine flu in the US.
Something to think about...
"What makes this so difficult is we may be somewhere between an important but yet still uneventful public health occurrence here — with something that could literally die out over the next couple of weeks and never show up again _ or this could be the opening act of a full-fledged influenza pandemic," said Michael Osterholm, a prominent expert on global flu outbreaks with the University of Minnesota.'We have no clue right now where we are between those two extremes. That's the problem," he said.
Health officials want to take every step to prevent an outbreak from spiraling into mass casualties. Predicting influenza is a dicey endeavor, with the U.S. government famously guessing wrong in 1976 about a swine flu pandemic that never materialized.
"The first lesson is anyone who tries to predict influenza often goes down in flames," said Dr. Richard Wenzel, the immediate past president of the International Society for Infectious Diseases.
Doesn't answer my question - but at least now you've read a counter argument for going nuts waiting to die.