Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Bell Tolls, Bring Out Your Dead, Bring Out Your Dead, Ask not....

A scientific panel advising the President has come out with what it says is a worst case scenario for the Swine Flu. Thirty to ninety thousand dead of two million hospitalized and 150 million taken ill. This would be on top of the typical 36 thousand dead from the far less dangerous "seasonal" flu that normally infects 15 to 60 million Americans each year.

That this is the worst possible case is little more than wishful thinking. Let’s start with the number infected. If it is so contagious that half the population will get it and since no one has immunity, it probably will not stop there since it will be nearly impossible to avoid exposure.
The number hospitalized is largely a moot point since there aren’t enough beds even with the wide distribution of tent wards to local hospitals. In a typical year 200,000 people are hospitalized from the flu and 18% of those die. Eighteen percent of 2 million is 180,000 but in 1918 the death rate from all cases was much higher and would be 12 million from today’s population.

The good news is the current swine flu lacks a critical protein found in the 1918 virus that made it so deadly. The bad news is this protein is available as raw material in humans and the virus mutates constantly. In fact we don’t know if the 1918 virus that has been studied is the worst possible version since in some places the death toll ran as high as twenty percent of the population. Even in the US whole families were wiped out by the flu.

Since its nature is to mutate constantly there is no predicting an out come. It could be nothing worse than a sneeze but evolution favors the virus the reproduces the fastest and makes its victim sneeze the most. The ever practical British have issued a booklet to local governments on the proper construction of mass graves. The UK has had a robust public health service for sixty years, we’ve had a steady slide into privatization for the last thirty years. The Republicans call this report nothing but Obama scare tactics. We need a name for mass graves similar to "Hoovervilles" for the homeless. For the dead buried by bulldozers it could be "Reagan Estates" or "Bush Lawn" or "Republican Rest".

Handicapping the Four Horses of the Apocalypse at www.prairie2.com Plague, now the favorite, paying 4 to 3.