May 3, 2009

Swine Flu Update: are we entering an Age of Pandemics?

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, nanotechnology, space, sustainability

May 2: Many U.S. emergency rooms and hospitals crammed with people… ”Walking well” flood hospitals… Clinics double their traffic in major cities … ER rooms turn away EMT cases. — CNN

Update May 4: Confirmed cases of H1N1 virus now at 985 in 20 countries (Mexico: 590, 25 deaths) — WHO. In U.S.: 245 confirmed U.S. cases in 35 states. — CDC.

“We might be entering an Age of Pandemics… a broad array of dangerous emerging 21st-century diseases, man-made or natural, brand-new or old, newly resistant to our current vaccines and antiviral drugs…. Martin Rees bet $1,000 that bioterror or bioerror would unleash a catastrophic event claiming one million lives in the next two decades…. Why? Less forest, more contact with animals… more meat eating (Africans last year consumed nearly 700 million wild animals… numbers of chickens raised for food in China have increased 1,000-fold over the past few decades)… farmers cut down jungle, creating deforested areas that once served as barriers to the zoonotic viruses…” — Larry Brilliant, Wall Street Journal


Comments — comments are now closed.

  1. Jeff Shultz says:

    An age of pandemics? Maybe. An age of media fed panics? Definitely.

  2. tim maguire says:

    Jeff called it. We are entering an age where every sniffle will be a pandemic for 15 minutes.

  3. txd1 says:

    A lot of people are going to be in for a rude awakening in the near future.

  4. Dean Esmay says:

    245 cases confirmed in US. How many dead? 1 at last count.

    The regular flu and pneumonia kill over 50,000 Americans every year. And that’s been going on for decades (with an overall downward trend over the decades, at least as measured as a percentage of the population).

    We’ve got a new strain of flu. We get a new one every few years. An age of pandemics, or an age of panics?

  5. Paul A'Barge says:

    “Less forest, more contact with animals… more meat eating”

    What nonsense.

    First of all there is no evidence that we are experiencing anything like a epidemic of pandemics. And the current “oops du jour” swine flu is turning out to be a minor blip with a major overreaction.

    Take a look at the leader in “Less forest, more contact with animals… more meat eating”, the USA. It’s arguably the healthiest, most prosperous and least vulnerable nation on the planet.

    You want planetary health? Let every other nation compete with the USA, in prosperity, technology and health. Prosperity brings health and prosperity is the engine of progress.

    Isn’t it just like someone such as Larry “not so” Brilliant to grab the current hysteria du jour to peddle his anti-progress, anti-prosperity eco-green superstitions? These people never miss an opportunity to blame what ever is “bad” and in the news on human progress.

    Imagine having to go through life trying to shovel out this kind of nonsense while being saddled with the last name of “Brilliant”. Talk about not.

  6. Jim says:


    If you take the first and third syllable, that’s what we’ve got.

    The purpose of the hype and horror is to convince the sheep that they are in mortal peril and that only obaaaaama and the 1.5 billion more dollars he just borrowed from China can save us. Of course, with the flocks storming the emergency rooms and stampeding in panic if someone sneezes in their county, the cost of healthcare is mushrooming.

    Mushrooming healthcare costs will, of course, mandate that obaaaaama “do something”. That “something”, of course, will have to be Universal Health Insurance Coverage.

    Of course, health insurance does not equal health care.

    What we will have is rationing.

    So, go kiss a pig. Before it’s too late. They’re renaming “swine flu”, you know, to the more catchy “H1N1”. Anyone who wonders why the sudden concern about the public image of swine hasn’t read Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.

    You can fool 54% of the people all of the time.

    And that’s sufficient.

  7. >The regular flu and pneumonia kill over 50,000 Americans every year.

    Citation, please? CDC says 36,000 U.S. flu-related deaths/year, but based on statistical modeling, not confirmed deaths. CDC Laboratories Revealed as Incapable of Accurate Count of H1N1 Influenza Infections, Deaths claims “the CDC is incapable of determining accurate numbers…” and (regarding current stats) “CDC’s official numbers are suspiciously low” because “CDC labs are inadequate testing facilities that are utterly overwhelmed with too many influenza samples to test.”

  8. Principlex says:

    Life by crisis.

  9. Some good advice here:


  10. 2 Billion Infected? WHO Stokes Swine Flu Fear

    The World Health Organization may have inadvertently triggered a new wave of fear over the threat of a swine flu pandemic today by suggesting that up to 2 billion people could be infected if the current outbreak worsens.

    WHO chief Keiji Fukuda quickly noted to reporters that he was making statement based on data from past pandemics and was not a predicting what would happen with the current swine flu outbreak.

  11. New data from Mexico and case numbers so far suggest that if the spread of H1N1 “swine flu” continues elsewhere as it has in the Americas, the virus could infect more than a billion people by July. — Warm weather may not halt swine flu, New Scientist, May 8, 2009

  12. Flu Wiki, “dedicated to sharing accurate information without scaremongering,” includes links to CDC, WHO, and other key sources.

    Recommended by Jimmy Wales.

  13. Flu Mask says:

    I think the main reason for the hype is that the H1N1 strain is not weakened by the same medical technologies as standard influenza. Tamiflu is useless against it, and there has not yet been an effective vaccine developed to fight it.. I think that you’re right about there being too much panic, but I also don’t think that we shouldn’t be worried, either.

  14. An epidemic is defined as an outbreak of a contagious disease that is rapid and widespread, affecting many individuals at the same time. The swine flu outbreak in Mexico fit this definition. A pandemic is an epidemic that becomes so widespread that it affects a region, continent, or the world. As of April 2009, the H1N1 swine flu outbreak did not meet this definition. However, as of June 11, 2009, WHO officials determined that H1N1 2009 influenza A swine flu reached WHO level 6 criteria (person-to-person transmission in two separate WHO-determined world regions) and declared the first flu pandemic in 41 years. To date, the flu has reached over 74 different countries on every continent except Antarctica in about three month’s time; fortunately, the severity of the disease has not increased.

  15. Hayattan says:

    that we wont be able to solve those problems.And in this cetunry.Given that I don’t think their timeline is over optimistic. It might even be conservative (unlikely but possible).For those extrapolating from the we went to the moon in the 60 s but now can barely make it into orbit I would remind you that extrapolating from any trend without understanding of the underlying causes for it risks extrapolating into territory where different rules apply.There are a host of potentially game changing technologies (3d printing for example) that could easily radically alter our economics such that it would be unrecognisable to us now.Trying to determine what is or is not possible, or desirable for our future, how we might achieve it,and most importantly explaining and discussing thereasons for why some things may or may not be possibleor desirable is a worthwhile thing to do.There are a number of comments on this thread dissing theentire idea or trashing specific predictions without reasoning as though the respective posters have clarion insight into the future that those on the website you linked don’t.I suggest that such posts are not only unhelpful to good debate.But also that they sound remarkably like the arrogant and dismissive tripe spouted out by purveyors of conspiracy theories and Woo who like to sound like they know more than any one else but can’t or don’t present any reasons for their positions.