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Flu Models Predict Pandemic, But Flu Chips Ready

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the false-positives-incoming dept.

Supercomputing 216

An anonymous reader writes "Supercomputer software models predict that swine flu will likely go pandemic sometime next week, but flu chips capable of detecting the virus within four hours are already rolling off the assembly line. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which has designated swine flu as the '2009 H1N1 flu virus,' is modeling the spread of the virus using modeling software designed by the Department of Defense back when avian flu was a perceived threat. Now those programs are being run on cluster supercomputers and predict that officials are not implementing enough social distancing--such as closing all schools--to prevent a pandemic. Companies that designed flu-detecting chips for avian flu, are quickly retrofitting them to detect swine flu, with the first flu chips being delivered to labs today." Relatedly, at least one bio-surveillance firm is claiming they detected and warned the CDC and the WHO about the swine flu problem in Mexico over two weeks before the alert was issued.

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Hungry for breakfast . . . (4, Funny)

Hmmm2000 (1146723) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792757)

All this talk of swines, avians, and now Pan(demic)s make me hungry for bacon & eggs.

Re:Hungry for breakfast . . . (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27792777)

Waffles > pancakes

Re:Hungry for breakfast . . . (3, Funny)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793653)

Pans.
You cook bacon and eggs in pans, dipshit.

Re:Hungry for breakfast . . . (0)

mangu (126918) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792831)

All this talk of swines, avians ...

Yeah, they are trying to rename it. In 1918 they renamed as "Spanish" a flu that actually started in Kansas. Now this weird alphanumeric code won't stick. We must find a proper name for it.

Any volunteers? Colbert, are you there?

Re:Hungry for breakfast . . . (5, Interesting)

zxjio (1475207) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792905)

"Spanish flu" came about because all countries infected before Spain were at war and had press censorship in place. Therefore, the first real public record of the pandemic was in Spain...

Re:Hungry for breakfast . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27793269)

In Korea, only old people welcome their new Colbert Flu-carrying overlords.

why just schools? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27792781)

shouldnt everywhere close at well? or are adults immune?

Re:why just schools? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27792807)

Children are good carriers. Kill the children, it's the only way for humanity to survive.

Re:why just schools? (1)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793109)

How long after we kill the children would one have to wait to use the old "repopulating the Earth" line to get women in bed? I ask merely out of curiosity.

Re:why just schools? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27793195)

That depends. How long would it take you to wash a child's blood off your hands?

Re:why just schools? (1)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793275)

About a good minute or so with plenty of soap and running water, no more than three and that's if you're up to the elbows.

Re:why just schools? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27793305)

Eh, a few minutes is all... heyyyy, i see what you were trying to do there, you nearly got me there.

You sneak!

Re:why just schools? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27793327)

So right, 5 minutes it is.

Re:why just schools? (1)

Dr_Banzai (111657) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792809)

A few deaths are acceptable to keep the economy running. We're talking millions or billions of dollars of lost economic activity.

Re:why just schools? (4, Interesting)

Anpheus (908711) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793145)

And a percentage drop in population corresponds to a very real percentage drop in total GDP. Fewer consumers, fewer producers, and slowed growth and achievement.

I've read on Reddit and some other sites some extreme comments, one was along the lines of, "Would it really be that bad if two billion people died?" Yes. Complete meltdown of the social order. That doesn't mean, yay "The caste system in India will be abolished." Yes, there are still prejudices in India against people of the lower caste. No, it means "Fallout (the game) style anarchy, city states and guns for hire... yay?"

Here's the thing, there are entirely reasonable responses, and irrational responses to this crisis. Reasonable responses are like the closing of a school when several students are confirmed to have the virus, or expensive testing of hospital staff for the virus, or even, if a major outbreak occurs, closing down public venues.

Why is this reasonable? Because the moral and economic cost of a widespread pandemic that kills millions or billions of people far outweighs the paltry economic cost of closing down... a school, or a mall. And if it becomes a pandemic, and thousands or hundreds of thousands are known to be infected in a major city, it's for the good of the rest of the nation and the world at large to limit the spread of the disease and close borders and limit travel. Because to do otherwise is insanity. This isn't like throwing billions of dollars at "terrorism" and fighting an ideology, a battle that can't be won. Fighting disease is something we can, and have defeated in the past. Come on, we've damn near wiped out polio, and we actually defeated smallpox.

This is money absolutely well spent. If even 1% of people get this, and 1% of those people die, that's nearly a million deaths. If either of those figures grows by an order of magnitude, it's death on the scale of the Holocaust. And you wouldn't argue that the industrial engine of the Nazi regime is more valuable than their lives, would you?

P.S.: You got Godwined.

Re:why just schools? (2, Informative)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793297)

uhm no. You did not Godwin the previous poster. You did it to yourself.

Re:why just schools? (1)

Chabo (880571) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793299)

And if it becomes a pandemic, and thousands or hundreds of thousands are known to be infected in a major city...

Nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Just hope that it doesn't feed on nuclear energy, like the Andromeda Strain does.

Re:why just schools? (2, Informative)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793469)

You know, this has all happened before. What's the worst that can happen ?

Well this is what happened last time : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_flu [wikipedia.org]

In short : 1/20 of the people who were infected died of the infection. This is a number that is too simplified : just about every baby infected died, as did just about every infected person over 75. Least affected were people between 5 and 20 years old.

Worldwide, the pandemic killed about 1% of the population. This totaled about 100 million people. The number is not well known since many hard-hit regions did not have data available : e.g. both the ottoman empire itself, and it's many enslaved populations went nearly totally unaccounted, it is quite certain that tons of black slaves of the muslims died totally untreated, and their numbers are not accounted for at all.

Just about every system in existence, whether related to health care or not was either abandoned or swamped. Entire factories were converted into hospitals, and basically nothing of the economy was operational. Trade, sea travel, ... all worked at severely diminished capacities. Hospitals emptied of docters and nurses, since they very quickly either ran, or became infected and sick themselves.

The pattern was similar to what were seeing today. The virus is present in one form of another in humans and a variety of animals, mainly chickens, monkeys of various species, pigs, goats and sheep. The pandemic was not a single virus but several similarly mutated forms of what is thought to have originated from a single strand. There were "warning" epidemics that started, but failed to cause the disaster the eventual strain caused, like we've seen today with the various small bird flew infections, the slightly bigger epidemics in malaysia and indonesia, and now the mexican outbreak.

Attacking these animals makes no sense, since the same pattern was observed then, and now : the dangerous strain jumped ONCE from animal to human (presumably ... it is also possible the virus mutated inside humans) and then only from human to human. If you want to prevent the infection from getting into a specific region, it's humans you need to worry about (e.g. an American military commander isolated Samoa using military force, which was spared the epidemic)

Please note that while we are capable of testing for the surface proteins of a virus (H1 is such a protein N1 is another) there are dozens of strains with the same surface features. It takes VERY expensive and time consuming tests to determine exactly which strain a patient has, and is rarely done at all, since there is no difference in treatment (despite all our medical knowledge, treatment for a virus infection is basically to make the patient comfortable and make sure he eats healthy).

Because of these limitations, there is very little information known about which strains and which genes were involved in causing the pandemic, and we have no data whatsoever about which genes went to which geographical regions.

Re:why just schools? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793755)

Healthily.

You eat healthily.
You sing lovelily.
You act sillily.

Re:why just schools? (3, Informative)

savanik (1090193) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793495)

The CDC has 141 confirmed cases of Swine Flu. Of those, 1 death has been recorded, in an infant in Texas who already had serious medical complications.

With 20,000 to 30,000 dying yearly of flu complications in the U.S., 1 death is hardly a significant statistic, and certainly not indicative of a pandemic. The WHO is, again, overreacting and fearmongering. The CDC has the most reliable information on the topic for Americans - not sure what equivalent other countries have. I certainly hope you're not relying on the WHO.

Re:why just schools? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27793643)

What about the free market and the invisible hand?

(and yes, I'm trolling).

Re:why just schools? (0, Troll)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793719)

2 billion?
We need to kill off 6 billion so we can get down to 1 billion.

Anarchy? Guns for hire? Sign me up.
You plebes may fear for the destruction of your precious system, but real humans will see it as an opportunity.

Re:why just schools? (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792819)

The state doesn't exactly have jurisdiction over businesses the way they do (public) schools. Things would have to be far nastier than they are for some sort of state-of-emergency declaration and the shutdown of private businesses to be politically palatable.

Re:why just schools? (3, Funny)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792967)

I think what you're trying to say here is that unless they declare martial law, closing schools and putting pressure on sporting event center owners is about all they can do to stem this. Unless you're President Madagascar (someone link to the image, thanks in advance)

Re:why just schools? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793457)

(someone link to the image, thanks in advance)

Um, on /. its not a good idea to ask for images... because most of the images on /. are Goatse, and I don't think you want Goatse, unless the President Madagascar is really the Goatse guy...

Leading Edge Technology (1)

mrbene (1380531) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792803)

uses a technique known as "data mining" to automatically search tens of thousands of Web sites daily for early signs of looming medical problems

Wowzers. People were complaining about being sick on the internets before they went to the hospital? Someone call Ron Paul.

Make Money Fast! (1, Insightful)

wsanders (114993) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792827)

"Veratect, based in Kirkland, Wash..."

"The company...has tried unsuccessfully to sell its service to the CDC"

"Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., who talked with the CDC, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies..said the federal government had made a mistake in not purchasing the company's program"

I think there's a "Dicks for Sale" joke in there somewhere.

Flu = distraction (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793163)

This flu is nothing, but a distraction from the economy. Notice since the news media jumped on the flu pandemic band waggon, that the stock markets have begun recovering nicely?

Re:Flu = distraction (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793225)

No, not really. The last week was relatively flat (the U.S. media started talking about the swine flu last weekend), the 7 weeks before that are not flat at all:

http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?s= [yahoo.com] ^GSPC&t=3m&l=on&z=m&q=l&c=

Re:Flu = distraction (1)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793369)

Rats! Foiled again!

How DID you find out about my devious LIBERAL(conservative?) plan?!

Seriously it isn't a bandwagon they are jumping on. They would have made the jump no-matter if the others were doing it or not.

Mass Media goes for RATINGS and what will get people to watch nothing more nothing less in most cases. Yes there are some biases but by and large they are only in it for the money and power.

The political side or effect of the message is irrelevant unless they think that can give them more money or power.

What's the point? (4, Insightful)

try_anything (880404) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792835)

What's the point of closing schools if the virus isn't virulent enough to burn itself out? If it's about as severe and durable as the garden-variety flu strains that circulate everywhere anyway, then it will continue to circulate in Mexico indefinitely, and wherever else it establishes itself. We can't exterminate it any more than we can exterminate other moderate strains of flu.

So when we reopen the schools, borders, or whatever else people are screaming for, the swine flu will be there waiting... waiting to make us cough and hack and stay home from work... waiting to kill children, the weak, the elderly... waiting... just like the regular garden-variety flu that we get every year.

(I'm not a biologist, I'm just baiting a real biologist to correct or clarify anything I got wrong. Please and TIA.)

Re:What's the point? (4, Insightful)

slashkitty (21637) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792881)

The main point is to delay and ultimately prevent the spread if it has a high fatality rate. 100 cases and 1 death don't give us a 1% fatality rate... we have to make sure those 100 people recover.

While we delay the spread, we can learn more about the disease and maybe produce a vaccine.

Here's some points.. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27793173)

The main point is to delay and ultimately prevent the spread if it has a high fatality rate. 100 cases and 1 death don't give us a 1% fatality rate... we have to make sure those 100 people recover.

While we delay the spread, we can learn more about the disease and maybe produce a vaccine.

Exactly.

(A) many more people are expected to get this flu than the regular seasonal flu because humans have no immunity to this flu. In 1918 they figure half the human population eventually got it. So whatever the mortality rate is, we should extrapolate that over a higher total sick population than the regular flu.

(B) Calculating the mortality rate is hard now because there are so few cases and the reliability of the numbers are shitty. It's like trying to predict a winner off the first five minutes of exit-polling in a national election. But let's go with what we have. Mexico has ~2500 suspected (312 confirmed) cases with 169 suspected (12 confirmed) deaths. That's like 4-6% chance of dying if you get sick. There are lots of reasons to doubt these numbers or think they're unrepresentative, so let's just say it's something like 2%. Could be higher. Could be lower. But for discussion, 2%. 2% is a pretty high rate of death. Seriously. It's 1918 bad. Do you feel okay with everyone you know each taking a 2% chance of death if they get sick?

(C) The regular flu kills a lot of people per year, but it still only represents a fraction of 1% of cases.

(D) There is a lot of speculation about the "cytokine storm" factor in Mexican cases-- that this flu is more likely to kill those with strong immune systems than a normal flu. I haven't heard a lot of actual facts about this, admittedly.

(E) As said above, we're at the end of the flu season in North America. Flu viruses mutate. We have no idea what this virus will have become come October. It may be nothing, but it may be something really scary. And the fact that we're all likely to get it makes people uneasy.

(F) As much as people are saying this is a shitty time (with the economy and wars and all) to have this happen, at least we may have some time to get a vaccine going before the mystery mutated version comes along in the fall...

Not to belabor the comparison to 1918, but that was a flu that killed an estimated 2.5-5% of those infected. They say that pandemic killed up to 100 million people worldwide, or 1/3 of the current US population. This was at a time when the global population was less than 2 billion.

Re:Here's some points.. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27793547)

To get 2%, you took 4% (mortality in confirmed cases) or 6% (mortality in suspected cases) and divided by two or three to get 2%. I don't think that's reasonable, because it assumes that people who died from swine flu when those numbers were being collected were only twice as likely to be tested for it as the average person who got it. You could just as reasonably assume that someone who died from swine flu was 100 times as likely to be tested for it. After all,

  • Most people who get the flu don't seek medical attention.
  • The means and practice of testing would have been available and adopted most quickly in hospitals, which is exactly where the most acute cases would be found.
  • The means and practice of testing would have been disseminated most slowly to small practices and neighborhood clinics, which is where people with mild cases would be likely to seek attention.
  • We might expect mortality to be lower in the United States than in Mexico.

So why not cut the 4% mortality rate in confirmed cases and divide it by fifty? Or one hundred? Or maybe, for some reason we don't understand, the proper divisor is one, and 4% is actually a reasonable estimate for overall mortality? Unless you want to flash some credentials, I'm going to assume your guess isn't any better than mine.

You would expect that people wouldn't throw around these numbers (like 12 out of 312) unless they meant something, but experience shows that people WILL throw around whatever numbers they have, even if they don't mean anything.

Re:Here's some points.. (1, Offtopic)

try_anything (880404) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793557)

Damn, how did I post that AC? For the record, it was me.

Re:Here's some points.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27793699)

Such an apropos user name.

Re:Here's some points.. (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793695)

that death toll was just because of pneumonia, secondary infections. not a concern today. really, this whole thing stinks of someone's agenda. and note that after Baxter at least twice makes bad mistakes (one with a body count of over a hundred), they nevertheless get the vaccine contracts and also get samples of this new virus....i'd say it looks like they have a nice profit improvement process going.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27793365)

We'll close schools to keep kids isolated so they don't get sick, but we have problem letting sick people fly, drive, walk, etc. into the country to spread the disease to areas not affected. Does anyone else see the folly in "well, it's already here, so restricting international travel isn't going to do anything" argument?

Re:What's the point? (2, Informative)

More_Cowbell (957742) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792913)

I'm no biologist either, but isn't the "regular garden-variety flu that we get every year" a new strain (or more than one) every year? And don't they have a new vaccine for the strain they expect to be prevalent that particular flu season?

So wouldn't it be great if the spread was halted long enough for a vaccine for this new strain to be developed?

Re:What's the point? (1)

blueskies (525815) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793083)

I'm no biologist either, but isn't the "regular garden-variety flu that we get every year" a new strain (or more than one) every year?

In the same way that Windows 3.11, Windows XP/Vista, BEos, VXWorks, and Linux are all just new strains of operating systems. Aren't they all just about the same?

IANAMB, but wikipedia is your friend:
genetic/antigenic drift (ie: POSIX compatible versions of each other):

Antigenic drift[1][2] is the process of random accumulation of mutations in viral genes recognized by the immune system. Such accumulation may significantly change the antigens of the virus, and may help it evade the immune system. This process may lead to a loss of immunity, or in vaccine mismatch when one of the strains selected for the vaccine doesn't optimally match the circulating strains."

genetic/antigenic shift:

the process by which at least two different strains of a virus, (or different viruses), especially influenza, combine to form a new subtype having a mixture of the surface antigens of the two original strains. The term antigenic shift is more often applied specifically, (but is not limited) to the influenza literature, as it is the best known example (e.g. visna virus in sheep[1]). Antigenetic shift is a specific case of reassortment or viral shift that confers a phenotypic change.

Re:What's the point? (0, Troll)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793625)

Yes, but still, it's just a flu. Of course old and badly medicated people can die from it. But we've all had some flu. You get fever, take some specific antibiotics, and lay in bed for some days. And then you are ok again.

What's all the fuss about? I mean this swine flu is no disease that we don't have any antibiotics against, and it also is no super-killer-flu is it?

I mean the original patient one is alive and well.

If I didn't know better, I'd say that all this is a plot to get us allow them do something evil... like implant "flu" chips into everyone...

Re:What's the point? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27793715)

omg, antibiotics don't work against viruses. i thought that was common knowledge by now.

Re:What's the point? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27792933)

The point is to delay the spread so that infections don't happen all at once and overwhelm the health system. See this article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/30/health/30contain.html

Re:What's the point? (2, Interesting)

try_anything (880404) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793027)

That is an excellent answer and the first sane article I've read about the issue.

Still, I'm not convinced it's worth it. What's the maximum N for which we should keep N thousand students out of school for a month to save a life? We're leaving it up to somebody to answer that question for us. Who is it?

A fool's errand (3, Interesting)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793359)

It's a fool's errand. It is better to make sure everyone is well nourished, reasonably fit, and has easy and cheap access to front line medical care; have a system of generating new vaccines as quickly as possible (takes months; can't quarantine people that long); have a good public health system, have an educated public that practices simple yet powerful techniques (wash hands, stay home when sick, etc.); and have a pharma industry that focuses more on developing useful drugs for more people (including variations in drug metabolism, etc.) than in producing "blockbuster drugs" of sometimes questionable merit.

In other words, continue doing more or less what we have always done, improving wherever and whenever possible, without panic, fear-mongering, or hyping up the threats.

The current "pandemic" is largely an exercise in ignorance, incompetence, self-delusion, opportunism, corruption, and an unhealthy dose of general idiocy.

Re:A fool's errand (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793559)

It is better to make sure everyone is well nourished, reasonably fit, and has easy and cheap access to front line medical care;

This may be possible in Mexico. But in the US? No way! Never going to happen. ^^

CDC (1)

copponex (13876) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793739)

In this case, it's the Center for Disease Control, at least for Americans.

And in my opinion, just as important as slowing the infection to avoid overwhelming our hospitals, is also making sure the whole country isn't ill at once. It'd be a virtual petri dish, since you'd have a bunch of people spreading to the virus one another while their immune system is down, increasing the likelihood that it could mutate into something bad.

The Spanish Flu did the same thing. It was a mild flu that spread amongst a bunch of people, mutated, and then wiped out a few tens of millions as soon as it was colder. It's a different world for industrial nations than it was in 1918, but not so for southeast Asia, Africa, South America, etc.

Resistance is futile (4, Insightful)

wsanders (114993) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793055)

It isn't the dangerousness, it that no one has any resistance and everyone gets it at the same time. I work at a university and we are following our generic "epidemic" plan - no cases yet, but we would follow the same plan whether it was regular flu or the food service served bad fish for dinner, when 500+ people got sick at the same time in the same place it's a problem..

Re:What's the point? (3, Insightful)

jaypifer (64463) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793311)

You are correct. However, people don't get fired if they do something.

Scenario 1: A school closes down, then weeks later they get the swine flu. Well, the school can say they did what they could.

Scenario 2: A school doesn't close down and they get the swine flu. Complaints will flow in from angry parents about why the didn't *do* something. Heads could roll, etc.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27793455)

Scenario 3: A school closes down, then weeks later there aren't any more cases of swine flu. Complaints will flow in from angry parents about why they overreacted. Heads could roll, etc.

Re:What's the point? (2)

jaypifer (64463) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793487)

Dubious, this is projected to be the first pandemic in 50 years. They can't be too cautious.

This is H1N1 (3, Interesting)

shis-ka-bob (595298) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793605)

This is similar to the 1918 killer flu. From genetic experiments, it seems that there are two critical mutations that made the 1918 flue so deadly. The virus only has RNA (no double helix here), so is mutates very rapidly. It may only be dumb luck that is separating us from a killer of 10s of millions.

I'm not worried. (2, Funny)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792845)

I've already read World War Z [wikipedia.org] , so I'm not worried -- I'm prepared.

You don't have to reload a blade.

Re:I'm not worried. (1)

Chabo (880571) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793013)

You don't have to reload a blade.

Yes, but after only a few uses of a blade, it will start to chip and break, and if you don't clean the blood off of it right away, it will make some serious pits in the metal.

A blade is a good thing to have, but should never be used as a primary weapon. Depending on the type of zombies you're facing, you may not even want them within your blade's reach (think of Boomers from Left 4 Dead, or other zombies where bodily fluid contact is a very bad thing).

Re:I'm not worried. (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793447)

Even 'regular' zombies swarming. You don't want to be close to that. Did you see Shaun of the Dead? That's what'll happen if you don't have guns. You'll be swarmed until the army runs over everyone.

Fear Mongering for Sales? (5, Interesting)

Sethra (55187) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792855)

If you trace back to the original EETimes article (http://www.eetimes.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=217201126 [eetimes.com] ) you'll see this in the opening paragraph:

Swine flu may have been caught early enough to prevent a serious U.S. epidemic, according to computer models developed by Virginia Tech's Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory (NDSSL).

So why is this Slashdot story claiming:

"Supercomputer software models predict that swine flu will likely go pandemic sometime next week"

So is the author just panicking unnecessarily or is this another case of using fear tactics to push an agenda, in this case boosting sales of a flu detection chip?

Re:Fear Mongering for Sales? (5, Insightful)

rorin (1175501) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792925)

Even better, the blog author's "source" is the article on EETimes written by ...the blog author.

Re:Fear Mongering for Sales? (1)

jaypifer (64463) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793637)

+1

Excellent, a critical reader...the world needs more of you.

Re:Fear Mongering for Sales? (1)

mowall (865642) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793731)

Someone mod parent up please!

Re:Fear Mongering for Sales? (1)

airuck (300354) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793585)

I designed a parallel PCR detection system for that is definitive, more sensitive, faster, and a hell of a lot cheaper. I'll bet a lot of other people have, too. If higher resolution is needed, then you could simply couple it with a pyrosequencer. There are many ways to skin this cat.

Revelance to summary. (5, Informative)

GammaStream (1472247) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792857)

First link seems like astroturfing. A better link would of been [NDSSL @ Virgina Tech] [vt.edu] , where the research is being done.

Re:Revelance to summary. (5, Informative)

A Friendly Troll (1017492) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793095)

First link seems like astroturfing. A better link would of been [NDSSL @ Virgina Tech], where the research is being done.

Have.

Fucking HAVE.

Re:Revelance to summary. (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793251)

I feel misled.

Re:Revelance to summary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27793333)

Would've is more appropriate to what he was trying to say since he essentially wrote the pronunciation for the contraction.

No big deal... (3, Informative)

hackingbear (988354) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792891)

As long as the governments keep drumming up the alert messages, nothing terrible will happen. Disaster only strikes when there are not enough media coverage!

I really don't understand (4, Interesting)

brkello (642429) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792893)

Flu season kills more than this strain will. Why isn't there a pandemic panic when we get the flu every year? This all seems so overblown to me. If this is a 5 on the scale that goes to 6, how is it that the regular flu doesn't push us to 6 with the number it kills. All these travel restrictions when you are more likely to be killed in any number of ways. The media is out of control on this one.

Re:I really don't understand (4, Informative)

digitalderbs (718388) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792983)

The fear is the mortality rate. Sure, the "regular" flu kills 35000 a year, but that's a mortality rate of 0.1%. This flu, if it's like the 1918 H1N1, which we already know it is *not*, could be much higher. Even if it's a 1% mortality rate, this is alarmingly high. (Infect 100 million Americans, 1 million die.)

Re:I really don't understand (3, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793091)

Yeah, but the problem with that is that the actual mortality rate from the epicenter of this "epidemic" is going down as better information comes out. It seems like we got an anti-sars. We got a flood of bad information but openly presented.

Re:I really don't understand (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793093)

Because you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what those numbers mean. They are not a measure of lethality, but a combined measure of a number of factors. "6" isn't "fatal", it's "pandemic" - there's a difference

Re:I really don't understand (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793307)

Part of the definition of epidemic and pandemic is that the outbreak is not expected. The normal flu occurs and spreads in a somewhat predicable fashion and mostly kills people with weak or compromised immune systems. If you get a new disease that behaves unpredictably and kills people that are otherwise healthy, it demands a different sort of attention.

Re:I really don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27793323)

Why isn't there a pandemic panic when we get the flu every year? This all seems so overblown to me. If this is a 5 on the scale that goes to 6, how is it that the regular flu doesn't push us to 6 with the number it kills?

To me, the question is not "Why are we so concerned about this new flu outbreak in Mexico?" but instead "Why are we not more concerned about the ordinary seasonal flu?"

There's a a CDC web page [cdc.gov] that claims that "Every year in the United States, on average: ... about 36,000 people die from flu-related causes". On average one hundred people die every day from the ordinary flu.

The airlines jump all over Joe Biden for suggesting that people should avoid air travel but the real question is why the airlines aren't doing more to prevent flu transmission on their flights generally.

According to another CDC web page [cdc.gov] "[transmission of H1N1 flu] is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu occurs in people, which is mainly person-to-person transmission through coughing or sneezing of people infected with the influenza virus." Air travel involves being crammed in a small tube with hundreds of other people some of whom are coughing and sneezing from the flu.

I can understand that when the Wright brothers first started flying they had more pressing concerns than catching the flu - but that was a hundred years ago. There's really no excuse for airlines not to be implementing measures prevent passengers from breathing each others sneezes.

As an aside, I see all this excitement from Obama about public transportation but, for me, the big drawback to public transportation is disease transmission. And yet somehow the topic of trying to design public transportation that minimizes disease transmission doesn't even come up.

There's something about our culture where expressing a desire to avoid catching a transmissible disease is like being antisemitic - everyone gets shocked and horrified that you could even dare to say such a thing.

Re:I really don't understand (2, Informative)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793531)

Because the ordinary flu is predictable. With the flu vaccine and a decent enough immune system, you won't get any near fatal seasonal flu. Most flu deaths come from children and the elderly. The seasonal flu follows a distinct season and is quickly and easily tracked and has a low mortality rate. On the other hand this type of Swine Flu is not predictable. There is no current vaccine and it seems to target and kill people who are otherwise healthy. This is in sharp contrast with the seasonal flu where it kills only the elderly and those with weak immune systems. Also, unlike the seasonal flu most people don't have any resistance to this form of swine flu.

Sure, the seasonal flu is deadly, but we know who it is deadly to and how to prevent and treat it. We don't with this swine flu plus the swine flu could easily mutate come this fall in time for an even deadlier flu season.

Rolan P. is the Undead!! (5, Insightful)

rts008 (812749) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793329)

This is just the boogey man du jour. Got to sell those newspapers and that ad space!

TFA is a prime example of this.
The summary first links to a blog[ad space] that links to the real article[more ad space]. The real article is also written by the author of said blog.

I will give credit for the real article being an interesting read, but why not go straight to the real article in the first place?

To top that off, the second link(also a blog) in the 'fine' article is an astroturf piece for some data mining company that's whining that WHO, CDC, and one other organization are not buying his company's services and software, and pushing an international tracking system that his company 'deserves' to be part of.[his word]

The whole point of this story was to increase adviews on two websites by the same guy, and push an astroturf on another blog.

We used to blast Roland P. for this until he finally stopped. Then shortly died...Hmmm....

There are a small handful of web sites I whitelist in Adblock+, but this crap is one of the main reasons I don't feel bad about using it in the first place.

Three steps to profit (3, Funny)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792921)

1. Write a cron job to warn CDC of impending disaster periodically.

2. Wait for a disaster

3. Shout from the roof top, "I warned! I warned!!".

4. ...

5. Profit!

Re:Three steps to profit (2, Funny)

InsurrctionConsltant (1305287) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793539)

1b. For extra credit, run said cron job on supercomputer.

Flu Chips? (2, Funny)

ewhenn (647989) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792931)

Do they come coated in a powdered cheese? If so, I'll probably go through at least 3 dozen of them.

Mmmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27792965)

Pandemic with a side of flu chips sounds mighty tasty right now!

Thanks for the hype, moron (5, Informative)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792985)

TFS leads off with 'OMG! Pandemic next week!', as does the tiny, uninformative blog TFS links to, despite lack of citation to a source that might be more authoritative than a 2-paragraph pseudo-article. Fortunately, that blog links to a story [eetimes.com] that is actually informative and somewhat related to technical matters. It leads off with the less exciting, but probably more accurate 'Swine flu may have been caught early enough to prevent a serious U.S. epidemic.' Nowhere in the eetimes.com article does it say a pandemic is predicted within a week, and nowhere in the blog TFS links to is there a citation for the author's pandemic prediction.

I'm not saying the disease isn't serious, but will someone please beat some sense into the fearmonger who cut/pasted this shitty summary together? It makes my eyes hurt just to read it, and stinks of someone trying to drive up their blog's hit count.

Re:Thanks for the hype, moron (1)

moteyalpha (1228680) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793293)

I have to agree on that and add that as somebody who has done cloning and genetic testing, I see a real problem with gene chips that identify this strain.
This is off the top of my head, but, If you create a chip that matches X and it changes to Y (more deadly) it misses. Also, If you are too non-specific in the match, it falses on almost everything.
I think that it is a boondoggle to give money to the bio-chip companies who in turn make big political donations, I would guess.

soooo hot (3, Funny)

MagicM (85041) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792999)

2009 H1N1 flu virus

Colloquially known as the heinie virus of 2009.

Models (0)

gambit3 (463693) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793063)

Yeah, and we all know how well models work in the real world. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Models (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27793319)

Wikipedia is not a reliable source. -2.

Re:Models (3, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793341)

Civil and mechanical engineering are based entirely on models.

Some of the models reflect our best scientific understanding of the world. Some of them reflect ideas that have worked before and guessing (but this guessing is done very carefully).

Source? (2, Insightful)

Darth Muffin (781947) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793065)

"Supercomputer software models predict that swine flu will likely go pandemic sometime next week"

Source, please? Otherwise it's just more overblown panic-inducing hype. Neither the linked article, or the article it links to say this. In fact, the second article says "So far, we haven't even identified the incubation period or how long people are infectious," and if that's the case I don't see how any computer model could be accurate.

Humans, they worry too much (1)

whitefang1121 (1432411) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793079)

We as humans have always freaked out in the face of a new threat. Then the people want the schools and the borders to close so they can fill safe even though the threat will never go away no matter how much the want it too. This so called pandemic will be no different then any other one, people will freak and start to buy flu masks and start to stay inside, but it will always be there even if we find a vaccine it will mutate and begin again, it will always be a continous rotation.

Re:Humans, they worry too much (1)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793233)

My high-school son wants schools to close, too, and I don't think he's too worried about the pandemic.

Enough already! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27793147)

The only pandemic problem we're likely to have next week is the media's reporting of the influenza du jour.

Haven't you heard? (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793161)

It's not a PROVEN epidemic until people have died or are veggetized. WHO cares about Veratect's anecdotal rumor of an epidemic? WHO's not on first!

Re:Haven't you heard? (1)

whitefang1121 (1432411) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793541)

well in that case it is only a pandemic in mexico

Headline... (5, Funny)

daemonenwind (178848) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793165)

Cluster Computer Predicts Cluster Fuck For Clustered People.

Film at 11.

Re:Headline... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27793345)

Is it a Beowulf Cluster?

Apply that to whichever cluster you want.

Re:Headline... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27793603)

Wow! The news where you are tells you when a movie is going to be on. At least they don't fear monger.

Go ahead, screw with my mind some more (1)

Neptunes_Trident (1452997) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793167)

I like how the WHO World Health Organization and Chipped Technology are combined together in one article. This should really bring ammunition to the opinion that one day all the people in the world will have chips embedded into their skin or whatever. I also took my liberty, (what I have left that really matters) and decided to do a WHOIS look up of the WHO.int. I had one more brain tickle, site was registered one day before 911. I am a skeptic of many opinions, but one thing is for certain, I will make it clear beyond any doubt that my body is my own. You can screw with my mind all you want. But you can't touch me. And if you assholes do, prepare to die.

My Plan (5, Funny)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793241)

Try to stay at least seven people away from Kevin Bacon

Just use the Kermack-McKendrick model (1)

ibn_khaldun (814417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793353)

You probably don't need a supercomputer for this one: the classic Kermack-McKendrick epidemic model, which is a just a simple system of nonlinear differential equations -- http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Kermack-McKendrickModel.html [wolfram.com] -- is probably sufficient.

(Yeah, like anybody studies differential equations anymore...lazy young whippersnappers with your supercomputers...I just hope the mortality curve on this pandemic follows the 1918 model, har, har, har...and get off my lawn...)

Re:Just use the Kermack-McKendrick model (1)

speed of lightx2 (1375759) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793545)

you need a differential equation system with delay. The big issue are the one or two weeks where an infected individual remains asymptomatic but already infectious. Solving DEs with delay is hard, and chaotic solutions are quite common. A more common modeling technique is a complex network statistical approach, such as when they modeled the whole city of Portland http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=if-smallpox-strikes-portl [scientificamerican.com]

Not a Pandemic (1)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 5 years ago | (#27793639)

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/30/health/30contain.html?_r=1 [nytimes.com]

Some experts are cautiously optimistic. A computer simulation of this outbreak released Wednesday by a team from Northwestern University projected a worst-case scenario, meaning no measures have been taken to combat the spread. It predicted a mere 1,700 cases in the United States four weeks from now.

I'm sorry you were saying?

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