Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The crazies come out to play!

Swine flu softens brains

Andrew Bolt

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 09:45am

Truly, we have more to fear from fear itself - and from the conspiracy kooks fear unleashes. No, I’m not taking about global warming this time but swine flu, and the program put out last night by America’s Coast to Coast, which boasts 3 million weekly listeners:
George Noory hosted a special edition of C2C with examination and analysis of the recent swine flu outbreak. 2nd hour guest, Dr. Gary Ridenour suggested that this virus could further mutate and ... in a worst-case scenario, 5-15 million people could die. He estimated there was a 40% chance that the new virus was man-made, and was released either accidentally or intentionally.
Appearing in the latter half of the show, Alex Jones and Stephen Quayle both agreed the new swine virus was not natural. It’s a “genetically altered bioweapon,” possibly being “beta-tested in the field” to target specific races, Quayle contended… Quayle suggested the virus may be part of a global plan to reduce the population, and that the mysterious deaths of microbiologists in recent years could be connected to this outbreak-- scientists who could help stop a pandemic were taken out.
(Thanks to reader Rosemary.)
Peter Curson, professor of population and security at Sydney University’s Centre for International Security Studies, isn’t dismissing the dangers at all, but warns:
HERE we go again. Just when we thought it was safe to go outside, the threat of another potential flu pandemic raises its head and hysteria builds again. Once again there is talk of quarantine, airport surveillance, travel restrictions and public closures…
Swine flu has a long and interesting history. While there is no record of it causing a human flu pandemic, this latest outbreak stirs memories of the 1976 public health debacle in the US when 200 soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey and Fort Meade in Maryland fell ill with what turned out to be swine flu, causing a wave of panic to spread through the community and public health authorities.
In response the US government began a nationwide vaccination campaign. When a pandemic never eventuated the program was halted, but not before hundreds of people had developed Guillain-Barre syndrome as a result of vaccination, including at least 33 deaths. It seems that even when we act with the best intentions we can unwittingly cause human tragedy.
If nothing else, this outbreak demonstrates how easily human perception and reaction can transform an epizootic (animal epidemic) or a localised human outbreak into something resembling human Armageddon.
Remember severe acute respiratory syndrome and bird flu? We seem destined to relive repeatedly our epidemiological past, and what we always seem to get is two epidemics, not one. The first is an epizootic or a human epidemic. The second is often an extraordinary epidemic of fear, hysteria and panic, partly orchestrated by government and media comments about how much our health and wellbeing is threatened.
Here’s one of the public service ads US authorities ran during the 1976 swine flu panic, urging people to have vaccinations that caused at least 30 to die:
ForeignPolicy.com says Twitter is perfect for spreading fear - as it’s now demonstrating:
Unlike basic internet search—which has been already been nicely used by Google to track emerging flu epidemics—Twitter seems to have introduced too much noise into the process: as opposed to search requests which are generally motivated only by a desire to learn more about a given subject, too many Twitter conversations about swine flu seem to be motivated by desires to fit in, do what one’s friends do (i.e. tweet about it) or simply gain more popularity.
In situations like this, there is some pathological about people wanting to post yet another status update containing the coveted most-searched words – only for the sake of gaining more people to follow them…
That aside, the “swine flu” Twitter-scare has once again proved the importance of context—and how badly most Twitter conversations are hurt by the lack of it. The problem with Twitter is that there is very little context you can fit into 140 characters, even less so if all you are doing is watching a stream of messages that mention “swine flu."… (I)n the context of a global pandemic—where media networks are doing their best to spice up an already serious threat—having millions of people wrap up all their fears into 140 characters and blurt them out in the public might have some dangerous consequences, networked panic being one of them. If you think that my concerns about context are overblown, here are just a few status updates from random Twitter users that would barely make you calmer (or more informed) about what’s going on:
I’m concerned about the swine flu outbreak in us and mexico could it be germ warfare?…
Good grief this swine flu thing is getting serious. 8/9 specimens tested were prelim positive in NYC. so that’s Tx, Mexico and now Nyc…
Swine flu? Wow. All that pork infecting people....beef and chicken have always been meats of choice…
A good time to recall Michael Fumento’s 2005 piece, written during a bird flu scare:
“THE INDICATION IS THAT we will see a return of the 1918 flu virus that is the most virulent form of flu,” warns America’s top health official. “In 1918, half a million people died. The projections are that this virus will kill one million Americans . . . ”
A quotation ripped from today’s papers about an impending “bird flu” pandemic? No, the year was 1976 and the prediction of a deadly “swine flu” overshot the mark by 999,999 deaths (although dozens did die from the vaccine campaign). That’s something to remember amid the current alarms. Another is that we’ve been here before with the identical virus over which the feathers are now flying, avian influenza type H5N1, which first hit poultry flocks in 1997. “Race to Prevent World Epidemic of Lethal ‘Bird Flu,’” and “Hong Kong ‘Bird Flu’ Could be the Next Big Outbreak,” blared the headlines then. The world death toll from that “wave”? Six. And let’s not forget the outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) two years ago, which led to 750 stories in the New York Times and Washington Post--one per death worldwide, as it turned out. The 71 U.S. cases of SARS, which resulted in zero deaths, did not “Overwhelm U.S. Health System,” as CNN had predicted.
None of which is to say there won’t be another flu pandemic. There were three in the last century, after all. But that gives us absolutely no idea when the next will come, nor whether it will be any relative
of H5N1, nor what its impact will be. Two of those 20th-century pandemics weren’t particularly severe, while the other was catastrophic. (Pandemic, by the way, does not mean “deadly epidemic"--it means “worldwide epidemic.")
What we can say with confidence is that there is never such a thing as helpful hysteria. And the line between informing the public and starting a panic is being crossed every day now by politicians, public health officials, and journalists.

Posted via email from Garth's posterous

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