The great swine flu overreation?

· by Steve · Read in about 3 min · (537 Words)

I’ve had some kind of flu for the last couple of days -  I don’t know if it’s regular flu or swine flu, but what I do know is that it’s been pretty weak and at no point has going to the doctor remotely entered my mind (although, I’m the kind of person who has to feel really sick for a number of days before considering going to the doctor, unlike some people who seem to go whenever they have a sniffle). I’ve had all the normal symptoms - fever, persistent headache, dizzyness, nausea, sore throat etc - but they’ve all been fairly mild; unpleasant but no big deal really. I’ve been working throughout, just taking paracetamol, and apart from feeling a bit crap for a few days and having to have a couple of early nights because I’ve been extra tired, it’s been pretty much business as usual, just a little annoying. I’m already feeling better, if not 100% yet - in all I’d rate it at about 1/5 of the potency of the last bout of winter flu I had, or less.

Lots of people seem to be panicking about swine flu though, which is somewhat puzzling to me - the media probably has a lot to answer for. Ever since the 2009 pandemic began, the media has been scaremongering about swine flu, concentrating on individual but really very rare cases of complications, and to my mind generally blowing the whole thing out of all proportion. Sure, it’s a pandemic - but that just means lots of people get it. So far except for a tiny number of cases people just seem to get over it - ok there’s a minority of bad cases, but those happen every year in seasonal flu too (even among the young & healthy, they just don’t get reported because it’s normal and statistically miniscule).

I can understand the concern from people who have underlying medical conditions; the sorts of people who would normally need to have the seasonal flu vaccine. But everyone else just needs to calm down. The hysteria going around at the moment seems rather irrational, and very much fueled by the media concentrating on headline-grabbing minority cases rather than the general picture. It’s almost as if the media wants it to be as serious as the Spanish Flu, because that’s better news than the reality.

Current estimates are that, of those people that get swine flu badly enough to seek medical assistance (and presumably that’s genuinely need to seek it, rather than wasting the GP’s time because they panic), approximately 0.5% of those people (1 in 200) may die from it - and note that that excludes the vast majority who will just breeze through it like a regular virus. That’s pretty much the same as seasonal flu. It seems the vast, vast majority of people will just get regular flu symptoms, feel a bit lousy for a few days, and recover. Based on current reports, most people’s symptoms will be milder than seasonal flu anyway.

I don’t know - maybe it will get worse, but it seems like people are doing more damage to themselves with all this panic than the actual virus is doing.