Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

The Gap Between Stats and Understanding In Flu Cases

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the we-need-more-science dept.

Math 83

KentuckyFC writes "Bird flu gets all the headlines but ordinary flu kills several orders of magnitude more people each year and represents a significant threat to our society. The frightening thing about ordinary flu is how little we understand about how it spreads. According to a report at the physics arXiv blog, researchers trying to model this process say they still don't know some basic probabilities associated with infection (pdf, abstract). For instance, given that the disease has manifested itself clinically in an individual, what are the chances of that person dying? And if a virus can be caught from a number of different host species (as it might eventually be with bird flu) what is the probability of transmission?"

cancel ×

83 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

HIV is better (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461313)

It's true!

Bird flu? What about nigger flu? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461315)

Mod me down if you hate niggers!

Re:Bird flu? What about nigger flu? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461339)

Mod me up if you hate this jackass.

Re:Bird flu? What about nigger flu? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461383)

1) very probable - its a slight vaiation of the common flu (all 32 documented strains that are attempted to be protected [{3 strains most likely per year}). Read your conspiracry theory into the injection...........

2) Everyone has the chance of catching it

3) WTF - n* flu. What part of Idaho are you from? At some point can we just give you assh*les an island that would be nice and easy to steer a Katrina into? I realize that a giant white sheet spill into the ocean would piss off Greenpeace - but they would probably get over it then next spring when the next baby seal club hunt attracted record numbers less of people over every other year.

Re:Bird flu? What about nigger flu? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461479)

3) WTF - n* flu. What part of Idaho are you from? At some point can we just give you assh*les an island that would be nice and easy to steer a Katrina into? I realize that a giant white sheet spill into the ocean would piss off Greenpeace - but they would probably get over it then next spring when the next baby seal club hunt attracted record numbers less of people over every other year.

You are right. We should put all the niggers in one state and either flood or burn that whole state down. Then we won't have any more outbreaks of nigger flus in the great U.S. of A!

Stats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461321)

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

Re:Stats (1)

sussane (1111533) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461379)

why do ppl just exaggerate alot, flu that's easy we can deal with it... right

Is ordinary flu that dangerous? (4, Informative)

Eukariote (881204) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461377)

but ordinary flu kills several orders of magnitude more people each year and represents a significant threat to our society.

That is a the popular perception. But it does not reflect reality: death risk from ordinary flu is actually statistically negligible. See for example this page http://thinktwice.com/cdc_2001.pdf [thinktwice.com] taken from the CDC National Vital Statistics Report.

Yes, those are official statistics. Time to think twice. Yes, part of it is the good money made on all those flu shots. But that is only a small part of it. To learn more about the real reason, watch this talk by radiologist David Ayoub: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6890106663412840646 [google.com] . Hard to believe? Verify the sources, they check out. Welcome to the real world.

Re:Is ordinary flu that dangerous? (1)

kongit (758125) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461405)

Even though it is statistically negligible it still kills people. While the actual threat of dying from having the flu is less then avian flu, if you die from either one it is more likely that it was ordinary flu. However, given the death percentage of avian flu and the risk of it evolving into something that can spread easier, the risk of avian flu might be equivalent to ordinary flu. So investing time and money into understanding and combating both types of flu is understandable.

Re:Is ordinary flu that dangerous? (4, Insightful)

faragon (789704) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461429)

Yes, it still kills people, but that its because it is massive, e.g., an inmunodepressed 90 year old can have 75% possibility of dying because of "normal flu". It's just a matter of exposition: you have more deaths by "normal flu" because of the massive exposition, in comparison to "avian flu". Let me guess that under the same grade of exposition, you could loss 1/4 of earth population, in the case of "avian flu". I think that Eukariote was trying to argue that way.

Re:Is ordinary flu that dangerous? (2, Interesting)

Eukariote (881204) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461455)

So investing time and money into understanding and combating both types of flu is understandable.

Indeed, infectious diseases should be carefully researched and closely monitored. But does that warrant the scare mongering enacted in the public media concerning flu and bird flu when the actual risk is very very low in comparison to other common risks? And does that low risk warrant the side effects and cost of all those yearly flu shots people are given?

Why not verify the data that is supposed to show that vaccines are even effective? Here is a book to help you out with that http://astore.amazon.com/medical-bookstore-20/detail/1881217302 [amazon.com] . Yes, you can interpret statistics in many ways, but the fact of the matter is that vaccines have been sold to the public and policy makers based on statistics of infectious disease reductions that occurred with improvements of hygiene, not with the later introduction of vaccination programs.

Vaccines are not snake oil (4, Insightful)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 6 years ago | (#21462001)

You don't need statistics to show that vaccines work. it is scientifically provable.

You give someone a vaccine, they get the antibodies for the virus they didn't have before. You can see them in your blood. How do you think this stuff works?

This isn't saying anything as to whether or not the flu shot should be a required vaccine or not, IMO NO vaccine should be required by law, but up to the parent. And I have never gotten a flu shot in my life and I likely never will until I am 70 and at risk, because other wise it is just fear-mongering nonsense (the flu is not going to kill me, a healthy 28 year old. At worst I will get a 2 week paid vacation).

As for the video and the claims of vaccine causing autism in some? May or may not be true. IMO it is not the issue. Think of how many times a child cuts themselves on metal each year. The likelihood of them getting a SERIOUS case of tennis from these injuries far exceeds the likelihood of them acquiring autism.

There is a degree of risk in almost every treatment in modern science. You go into routine surgery to get your appendix removed, you might die from the anesthetic. But the risk of dying is MUCH HIGHER without treatment. No different than many vaccines - the risk of death from the disease is much higher than any risk of autism. Nearly ever kid in the US gets a huge vaccine regiment, hardly any have autism. To me, that makes the probability pretty small. Much smaller than the odds of dying from any of these eliminated diseases used to be.

Re:Vaccines are not snake oil (1)

joshv (13017) | more than 6 years ago | (#21462021)

I don't have any conceptual problems with the theory behind vaccines, but there is some serious question as to whether or not flu vaccines have decreased the flu death rate in the population at large.

Re:Vaccines are not snake oil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21462249)

Very simplistic analysis mixed with a lot of incorrect "facts."

Yeah, you might want to double check about how it works. Just showing an antibody does not mean the immune system has undergone the same adaptation that it would have with exposure to the actual antigen. Reference varivax and the shingles problems not cropping up. What about MHC HLA molecules? What about Th1 and Th2. You understand that there are both innate and adaptive responses? You understand that, for just one example, contracting varicella leads to lifelong immunity while the vaccine requires a booster?

What about the fact that a vaccine is a exogneous sensitization to an amino acid sequence and ALWAYS carries the risk of introducing auto-immune disorders? And oh yeah, ALL the childhood auto-immune disorders are skyrocketing, autism included.

Think there is a connection between the massive increase in peanut allergies and the inclusion of peanut oil as an adjuvant in several vaccines?

IN EVERY INSTANCE where the data has been captured, at least 95% of the mortality decrease has occurred before the vaccine introduction. Sanitation and nutrition are far more responsible for the reduction in communicable disease than vaccines.

Side effects of vaccines are an issue because that information is typically denied to the general public, thus removing the capacity for informed consent.

The CDC shows 1 in 6 children have a neurologically based learning disability. In some areas the autism rate among males is as high as 1 in 66.

So, like most vaccine apologists, you know no immunology, virology or epidemiology and, in short, are full of shit.

Re:Vaccines are not snake oil (1)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 6 years ago | (#21466123)

***IN EVERY INSTANCE where the data has been captured, at least 95% of the mortality decrease has occurred before the vaccine introduction. Sanitation and nutrition are far more responsible for the reduction in communicable disease than vaccines.***

Smallpox? Polio? Have you totally taken leave of your senses? If you want to express doubts about the efficacy and safety of some vaccines, be my guest. You may well be right about many of them. But keep some sense of proportion, quit telling others (incorrectly) that they don't know what they are talking about, and get a grip on reality.

Re:Vaccines are not snake oil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21466503)

Yes, you are a fucking dumbass. You have obviously not ever looked at the data.

95% of mortality. Measles and polio in the US. We don't have data for smallpox. The diagnostic criteria was also reclassified during the introduction of the original polio vaccine.

That is mortality dumbass, not incidence or prevalence. You probably have no fucking clue what the distinctions are because you are a typical slashdot fuckwit who thinks googling shit represents acquisition of actual knowledge.

Go google a career in immunology before you try to fuck with me.

Please try to pay attention for the devil is in the details, shitlips.

Show me a single graph of mortality where more than 5% of the original value remains before vaccine introduction. For ANYTHING.

Like every other armchair vaccine apologist you would not know a heavy chain from anal beads.

Get the data from the CDC cockroach. Please blow me away.

Re:Vaccines are not snake oil (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#21466693)

In America, only old people have smallpox vaccination scars, and only old people knew people who had polio. Actually most people with a real cold believe they have the flu.

Re:Vaccines are not snake oil (1)

eunos94 (254614) | more than 6 years ago | (#21462651)

Think of how many times a child cuts themselves on metal each year. The likelihood of them getting a SERIOUS case of tennis from these injuries far exceeds the likelihood of them acquiring autism.

Yeah, I had a bad case of Navratilova last year. Almost as bad as that case of Hingis my friend had.

Wait, tennis?

Re:Vaccines are not snake oil (1)

Chuffpole (765597) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480327)

I have to wonder how you court that, and was the net effect that it was your fault? ;o)

Re:Vaccines are not snake oil (1)

Voltaire759 (886405) | more than 6 years ago | (#21464077)

You're forgetting the concept of herd immunity and the fact that older adults just don't have that good of a response to flu vaccines. Restricting flu vaccines to 70+ people would result in lots of younger people having the flu that wouldn't kill them, but they would infect lots of older people who don't have a good response to the vaccine -- killing them.

Re:Vaccines are not snake oil (1)

MrResistor (120588) | more than 6 years ago | (#21473519)

You don't need statistics to show that vaccines work. it is scientifically provable.

Oh really? How exactly do you prove something "scientifically" without analyzing data? And how do we analyze data? Oh damn... there's that nasty "statistics" again...

Lockjaw? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#21474795)

Think of how many times a child cuts themselves on metal each year. The likelihood of them getting a SERIOUS case of tennis from these injuries far exceeds the likelihood of them acquiring autism.
Far? My sources say near. We were talking about vaccines, so I'll assume that by "tennis" you mean "tetanus" and not "lawn tennis" or "tetris" [pineight.com] . Wikipedia reports one million cases of tetanus per year [wikipedia.org] . Significant autism spectrum characteristics (e.g. anywhere from Asperger syndrome to full-blown autism) may occur in up to six of every 1000 people. Given 134 million babies per year [wikipedia.org] , that's not quite a million, but it's close.

Re:Lockjaw? (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 6 years ago | (#21494455)

Your numbers are irrelevant because almost every child in the US is already vaccinated. If there was no tetanus vaccine program, then the number of people who contracted it would be much much higher.

Basically what you are saying is that even WITH vaccination programs the number of people who get tetanus is STILL HIGHER than the number of people who get autism. If anything you are just re-enforcing my argument.

Screw the flu shots. (0)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#21462033)

Up here, they're free, but I never got one, and never will, even though I'm supposedly in a "higher-risk" group (type 1 diabetes).

I mentioned this to a nurse at the local clinic, and she said she'd never get one either.

Theres a link between repeated vaccinations and arthritis and other auto-immune diseases in dogs. I'm not willing to find out that the same is true for humans. Apparently, repeated introduction of foreign bodies in "non-normal" ways (like breathing or ingestion) can confuse the immune systems ability to tell self from non-self.

Sp wash your hands, leave a window open to get fresh air, don't hang around smokers (the smoke condensate makes a great way for viral particles to "hitch a ride"), if you feel sick, stay home instead of spreading it around, don't share computer keyboards, mice, phones, etc. Avoid "anti-bacterial" cleaners - you'll depress your immune system if it isn't "challenged" often enough (see the stats on kids who grow up with dogs having less asthma than those who don't).

And while we're at it, will you all please STOP PICKING YOUR NOSES!!! Just because you're in your car doesn't mean we can't see you "going for the (nose) gold". And no, I don't want to know what you do with your McNoseNuggets.

It's not the shot themeselves. (2, Interesting)

DrYak (748999) | more than 6 years ago | (#21466971)

It's the vaccine that may be the cause of the arthritis, it may be the adjuvants.

One doesn't develop systematically antibodies against everything that gots injected under the skin. How otherwise would you explain that no reaction happen (most of the time) following tatoos ? That people who develop antibodies against bioengineered drugs only develop them over time (and not right at the first exposure) ?

For the white cells to react, the intruder must be flagged as something worthy of a reaction, otherwise the intruding substance just gets cleaned up silently by macrophages.
For actual microbes (viruses and bacteria) that is mainly due to the destruction they cause. This damage triggers and inflamation which stimulates the immune response.
But a lot of vaccine are often only bioengineered inert proteins. They don't atract the lymphocyte's attention and may end up silently cleaned up. On of the technique consist to ad a special substance that will increase the probability of an immune response, that will boost the tendency of the body to react and produce antibodies.
The problem is that some adjuvant bring a small risk that the bodies over reacts and is stimulated to produce antibodies against other things too, like against it self and thus the dogs in the experiment you mention develop arthritis.
But that depends on the quantity of vaccines they got exposed too, and the composition of the vaccine regarding the response-boosting adjuvants.
Regularly old adjutants (either preservatives or boosters) get phased out and replaced by newer safer methodology.

But the process of vaccination (producing antibodies against foreign substance) isn't dangerous per se. And anyway is happening all the time continuously, whether or not someone gets shots by his doctor or not. If your not sick for long periods of time, that's not because you managed to somehow avoid all bacteria, it's just that your immune system is at work and manage to correctly handle continuously all pathogens present in your everyday environment.

Autoimmune diseases are also at increased risk after a disease, because the immune system got stimulated (and also because of the mimickery some bacteria use to try to hide - Antibodies that work against them may end up working against the body)

Lastly, autoimmune disease depends mainly on the genetic make-up of an individual. There are people at greater risk of autoimmune response and people at lower risk (also for various reason I won't detail here, being female doesn't help). And as I said before, if your at risk (have several family members with diseases like arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, etc.) running away from vaccine won't help, you could develop some as a consequence of a disease.

About Allergy : They are not caused by a depressed immune system. They are a (bad) reaction of the immune system and for that you need a working one. Once again it depends on the individual genetic markup.
But as you point out environmental exposition may play a role in the balance.
The cells involved in allergy (eosinophils) seem to normaly be usefull against parasites. In third world countries, those cells get someting to work on and thus remain busy. In our clean occidental settings, they stay useless. In some people, those cells just stay calm and don't do much. But in people with the wrong genes, the cells may try to work too much and do things they aren't supposed to : this bring you allergy (and the problem with allergy is, unlike a parasites which usually is 1 animal in 1 precies location, the allergenic substance can get in your blood and disseminate and trigger response in the whole body thus provoking anaphylaxis).

Note that, as mentioned before, some way to stimulate the immune response is needed in allergy too. Often this is linked to a family of proteins like lysozyme in the saliva of animals whose fur causes allergy (those proteins are used to kill bacteria but might be very slightly reactive in humans and thus trigger a response).

Probably (as pointed by some research), pollution (both environment like everything that goes out of a SUV and individual habits like smoke) could probably play a similar role of immune-response anarchic booster, thus causing chaos and making the body react to substance it should react to.

Re:Is ordinary flu that dangerous? (1)

Crazyswedishguy (1020008) | more than 6 years ago | (#21463773)

Risk is often well described by the notion of "expected cost", which is simply the [probability of the event happening] x [cost of that event]. E.g. if you have a 10% probability of losing $100, or a 1% probability of losing $1000, the expected cost is approximately the same.

With a 10% probability of losing $100, you might be losing more often, but your expected cost will be the same.

The probability of a regular flu outbreak may be high (happens every year), "many" people die every year.

Conversely, the probability of a widespread avian flu pandemic may be extremely low, but the loss in the event of such a pandemic would be (from what I understand) huge.

I haven't looked at statistics or forecasts in the event of an avian flu pandemic, but my guess is the "expected cost" is significant, even after factoring the probability.

So yeah, more people may be dying from regular flu, that doesn't necessarily imply that it's a greater risk.

Re:Is ordinary flu that dangerous? (1)

an.echte.trilingue (1063180) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461421)

He is obviously trying to get you to get your "inoculation" so that you will become one of them. Just don't sleep.

Re:Is ordinary flu that dangerous? (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461457)

i'm sure if your not too young, too old, have heart problems or asthma that's very comforting, asshole.

Re:Is ordinary flu that dangerous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461559)

Why yes, thank you, it is. You just described a rather large part of the population, you know.

Re:Is ordinary flu that dangerous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461579)

Summary: Flu vaccination works often enough to be useful. The experts know what they are doing. It is very difficult to correctly select and manufacture each year's flu vaccination.

From [[Influenza vaccine]] at Wikipedia:

==Flu vaccine virus selection==
Selecting viruses for the vaccine manufacturing process is very difficult.

At the [[United States|U.S.]]'s [[Food and Drug Administration]]'s (FDA) [[Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research]]'s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee's 101st meeting of [[February 16]] [[2005]], an extensive discussion and vote was held concerning the following year's flu vaccine virus selection, but began with a summary of the previous year:

===Influenza B=== :"For [[Influenza B]], the question was asked: are there new strains present? And the answer was yes, and in 2004, the majority of the viruses were similar to a strain called B/Shanghai/361/2002, which is from the so-called B/Yamagata/1688 hemagglutinin lineage. That lineage was not the one that was being used in the vaccine that was current last year. In a minority of the strains that were found during the epidemiologic studies were similar to the strain that was in the vaccine for last year, which was B/Hong Kong/330/2001, which belongs to the HA lineage that we represent with the strain B/Victoria/287. In answer to the question were these new viruses spreading, the answer, of course, is definitely yes. The Fujian-like viruses had become widespread around the world and were predominant everywhere, and these B/Shanghai-like strains at the time we were holding this meeting in February were predominant not only in North America and the United States, but also in Asia and Europe."

===New viruses=== :"Were the new viruses that were identified and spreading, were those inhibited by the current vaccines? And this question, as it sometimes is, was not a very definite no or yes. It was a little bit difficult to interpret, but it seemed like many of the A/Fujian-like viruses were not well inhibited by the current vaccines, although some of them were. For the B/Shanghai-like strains, of course, we've known for a long time that these two divergent hemagglutinin lineages are not that well inhibited one by the other, and as time has gone on and antigenic drift has occurred in these strains, that has become truer. Generally we also know that for the B/Yamagata-like strains and the B/Victoria-like strains, that very young children and people who haven't been immunologically primed, exposure to one of these does not seem to immediately give antibodies that cross-react with the other HA lineage."

===Manufacturing issues=== :"So were there strains that were suitable for manufacturing? And the answer was yes. Of course, we all know that for inactivated vaccines and for live attenuated vaccines manufacturing depends on having egg adapted strains, either the wild-type or reassortant, and in the case of the live vaccine, of course, it has to be a reassortant for the attenuation phenotype. But there were A/Fujian-like strains that were available, and there was a high growth reassortant that was being used in manufacturing for the Southern Hemisphere already, the A/Wyoming/3/2003 X 147 reassortant. For the B strain, there were a number of wild-type isolates that seemed to be suitable for manufacturing, including B/Jilin/20/2003 and B/Jiangsu/10/2003, in addition to the B/Shanghai/361 strain itself."

===Strains selected=== :"So based on that, the strains that were selected for this year include A/New Caledonia/20/99-like strain, which in this case really is A/New Caledonia/20/99. For the B/Shanghai/361/2002-like recommendation that was made, there were all three of these strains, B/Shanghai, B/Jilin, and B/Jiangsu. And for the A/Fujian/411/2002-like recommendation that was made and the A/Wyoming/3/2003 strain was chosen or is the one that has become widely used for vaccine preparation. Now, the implications of the strain selection were that preparation of the vaccines was on schedule throughout the year. All of the strains seemed to be typical and easy to adapt for manufacturing purposes, and going into the summer, the supply of vaccine was expected to match the demand predicted by previous years' experiences."

===Unexpected difficulties=== :"But what happened was that we ended up with a vaccine shortage at the end of the summer, and just to try to put that into a little perspective, from January until August, manufacturing had been progressing on schedule even including these two new strains that were recommended for use in vaccines, and it was anticipated there were going to be about 100 million doses of vaccine from all of the manufacturers combined for this year. In August of 2004, Chiron notified regulatory authorities about a sterility issue and indicated that investigation to identify the cause and the implementation of corrections was underway, and at that time Chiron made a public announcement indicating that there would be a possible delay in distribution and possibly a reduction in the amount of vaccine that would be available. You also probably all know that in early October of 2004, the MHRA, the UK regulatory authority, announced that they were suspending Chiron's license to manufacture inactivated influenza vaccine for three months, and that was based on the issues that have previously been identified and were in investigation and correction by Chiron. Subsequently, over the next few weeks and certainly by November of 2004, it became clear after consultation between FDA and MHRA that the vaccine that Chiron had planned to make was not going to be available for us in the United States."

===Response to unexpected difficulties=== :"In response to that, there were a number of things that happened within the Public Health Service, and I'll just very briefly indicate some of those. At FDA there was a lot of work done to evaluate manufacturers who were not licensed in the United States to identify whether their vaccines could be used under IND. There was consultation with manufacturers to discuss regulatory mechanisms going forward from this time for getting approval of new products in the United States. That includes accelerated approval, fast track and priority reviews to facilitate those new licenses, and all of these things actually have been continuing."(transcript of U.S. FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee's 101st meeting of February 16, 2005 is here: [http://origin.www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/ac/05/transcripts/2005-4087T1.DOC origin.www.fda.gov in .DOC format] [http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:8hPXwU4pfyAJ:origin.www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/ac/05/transcripts/2005-4087T1.DOC+CDC+H5N1+research+%22two+clades%22&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=18 in Google provided HTML format])

Re:Is ordinary flu that dangerous? (1)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461733)

even if the sources check out on that google clip it doesnt mean they arent being misrepresented to prove something they don't.

don't let yourself be trapped inside the "real world" of yet another conspiracy theory. you might want read this and at least be open minded to the possibility that you are being misled by people who mean well, but are totally deluded.

http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/default.asp?Display=124 [theness.com]

also this podcast has a good segment on it http://www.theskepticsguide.org/skepticsguide/podcastinfo.asp?pid=113 [theskepticsguide.org]

Re:Is ordinary flu that dangerous? (1)

porpnorber (851345) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461909)

Certainly, mortality-wise, it is far more important to ban private cars than it is to cure flu. But will anyone go for that? There's so little connection between reality and public policy (at least that I can see) that I can hardly imagine how this can be discussed rationally.

Re:Is ordinary flu that dangerous? (5, Informative)

puck01 (207782) | more than 6 years ago | (#21462079)

First, the flu shot is not universally recommended for everyone, but is certainly available to anyone in the US. It is recommended universally in young children and very old because of their high risk as well as those with co morbid conditions such as asthma or diabetes. Health care workers should get it to reduce the risk of spreading it to high risk patients.

Second, the data you referenced only used death as an end point. That is only one of several measures. For every death, the flu causes much more morbidity which is entirely ignored by you. It causes a huge numbers of hospitalizations and ICU stays which are incredibly expensive.

Third, very little money is made in vaccines. Primary care doctors are lucky if they don't loose money on vaccines. How do I know? I am a primary care doctor and its a wash between the cost of storing and purchasing them vs how much we get paid to give them. Manufactures almost have to be begged to make vaccines because there is little financial incentive to do so. Its not uncommon to have shortages occasionally because of this.

Forth, your referencing a radiologist to talk about an infectious disease / epidemiology problem. That's usually a red flag right there. For instance I know an orthopedic surgeon that argues quite well to the uneducated how evolution is genetically impossible. He's a doctor so the uneducated take his word and believe him. Problem is, he's a idiot outside orthopedics and anyone with half an education about genetics would butcher him. Another example would be this is like getting a plumbers opinion on what type of roof to put on your house. Would you do that?

Re:Is ordinary flu that dangerous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21464735)

Primary care doctors are lucky if they don't loose money on vaccines. How do I know? I am a primary care doctor

I hope you're not my doctor. I'd hate to get a prescription for the wrong drug because of an extra "o".

U.S. Doctors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21467397)

It is time for the U.S. Doctors to wake up and start associating the prescription drugs they recommend with the type of vitamin that the exact prescribed medication depletes inside the patient's body.

At any time any prescription medication is depriving the patient the vitamins and proteins that support the immune system.

Mostly on the elderly with chronic diseases who "live on" daily prescriptions for years.

I haven't had a flu for about 10 years now and I never had a flu shot or taken flu medicine. I had a "first-day flu-like symptoms" but I took care of it before it spreaded inside the body.
I just use common-sense, rather than a doctor's flu shot.

Re:Is ordinary flu that dangerous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21467417)

> Primary care doctors are lucky if they don't loose money on vaccines.

For the past 24 years, I've work on software for small medical offices that does billing and scheduling. I have never heard a doctor use the term "loose money." What do you mean by that? Does the term "tight money" also have a meaning? What are you talking about?

Re:Is ordinary flu that dangerous? (1)

forgotten_my_nick (802929) | more than 6 years ago | (#21462201)

Any joy on pointing us to those sources? I can't see any details of this guy posting in any medical journals. I can find that I can buy his CD for $9 and that he is still researching to determine if there is a link or not.

I did find this though.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiomersal_controversy [wikipedia.org]

This points to sources of the CDC saying there is no link, as does WHO and the Institute of Medicine. So if you know something those guys though feel free to link it.

Re:Is ordinary flu that dangerous? (1)

Eukariote (881204) | more than 6 years ago | (#21462703)

Any joy on pointing us to those sources? I can't see any details of this guy posting in any medical journals.

Here is a paper by David Ayoub http://www.jpands.org/vol11no2/ayoub.pdf [jpands.org] in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. I suggest you trace the references therein. For a good general overview of vaccine issues with many detailed source references, I can recommend this book http://astore.amazon.com/medical-bookstore-20/detail/1881217302 [amazon.com] .

And heeere we go again! (1)

TheMohel (143568) | more than 6 years ago | (#21462495)

Give it a rest. Vaccines don't cause autism. Mercury in vaccines especially doesn't cause autism, because there isn't any mercury in most vaccines, and there hasn't been any for years. This was effectively ended by going to single-dose vaccines to prevent the need to stabilize or sterilize the multi-dose vials. It increased cost, but it eliminated a small (but nonzero) dose of a heavy metal. There's still no evidence of significant harm during the mercury era, but that era ended years ago.

Britain did a lovely experiment with mass hysteria and autism, dropping their MMR immunization rate substantially in response to this kind of fear-mongering. The result: measles made a comeback, and diagnoses of autism continued to increase. We still don't understand whether (or why) autism is on the rise, but vaccinations were effectively ruled out a long time ago.

As far as the massive money made on the flu shot, give that a rest too. Vaccines are hard to convince drug companies to make, because the liability exposure is large and the profit on the drug is quite small. In the USA, if it weren't for federal intervention (surveillance and liability coverage), we wouldn't have domestic manufacture of any of them. Remember that flu shot shortage a few years ago? It happened because a British manufacturer of the vaccine, Chiron, had a facility declared ineligible (for quality reasons) to ship product. In the USA, there isn't enough domestic manufacturing capacity to make up that kind of a hit.

As far as how benign influenza is, try that line out on the half dozen families in my state who had a previously healthy school-age child die suddenly from the flu a couple of years ago. We had a bad strain come through that year, and we saw a lot of cases of partial or complete airway obstruction from the necrotizing tracheobronchitis that seems to be caused by certain kinds of flu A. Or just talk to the hundreds of people who were hospitalized last year, or the tens of thousands who lost a week from work and felt like they got hit by a car. Or talk to me - I'm a hospital pediatrician practicing in a site where I see all of this and more, and where I've seen directly the difference that the flu shot makes. And yes, I get mine, and I have done so every year for a LONG time.

If you're a healthy adult and you don't mind a moderate statistical risk that you're going to feel like crap for a week at some point in the next six months, by all means run and hide from the shot. But don't let the vaccines-cause-civilization-decay folks panic you out of something that has kept a lot of my patients healthy.

Re:And heeere we go again! (1)

mvdwege (243851) | more than 6 years ago | (#21469963)

We still don't understand whether (or why) autism is on the rise,

Hypothesis: because more and more the outliers of human behaviour are being medicalised, turned into a syndrome. Active kids? ADHD, put 'em on Ritalin. Slightly excentric with communications difficulties? Call 'em Aspergers or borderline autistic.

This is merely a thought fed by media attention on these 'syndromes'. I may be wrong, I haven't done a study, but I think it is worth looking at how our view on what constitutes normal behaviour can be skewed.

As for the people so labeled, there are surely folks who do have actual problems that need a diagnosis of the above type. I strongly suspect though that these particular examples are massively overdiagnosed, and even if not, that most sufferers don't need medical attention, but a society that is more tolerant of behaviour differing from a very narrow norm. The medicalisation of their problems inhibits the latter solution though.

Mart

Re:Is ordinary flu that dangerous? (1)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 6 years ago | (#21463133)

If anyone takes the time to read that report from thinktwice, they'll see that flu is grouped together with pneumonia, and that it's actually pneumonia that is responsible for the thousands of deaths.

Re:Is ordinary flu that dangerous? (1)

iabervon (1971) | more than 6 years ago | (#21464681)

Ordinary flu is an order of magnitude more deadly than bird flu in number of deaths caused. In 2001, ordinary flu killed over a hundred people, and an average year has under 10 deaths from bird flu. Rule of thumb: any dumb thing you can think of that somebody could die from is an order of magnitude more deadly than anything where individual deaths are world news.

Re:Is ordinary flu that dangerous? (1)

zopf (897522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21467161)

Good point. Another important point to recognize is that while ordinary influenza may kill more people in sheer numbers per year, it is likely that avian flu could kill a larger fraction of those who contract it. Thus, while avian flu might only kill 10 people this year, that could be 10 out of 20 cases, whereas ordinary flu might kill 250 out of hundreds of thousands. If avian flu did turn out to have that sort of survival ratio and the ability to spread at a pandemic rate, we could have a real problem on our hands. I think the concern over bird flu is partially just media hype, but also partially valid. It's not a real problem yet, but if it made that leap from avian flu to primarily human flu, we would be caught woefully unprepared.

Odd (4, Informative)

Asmodai (13932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461381)

Given the fact in the Netherlands and Belgium we have http://www.degrotegriepmeting.nl/ [degrotegriepmeting.nl] -- an effort by some medical institutions and related institutions to monitor the migratory patterns of the flu. This is the fourth year they're monitoring. The same kind of project happens in Portugal: http://www.gripenet.pt/ [gripenet.pt] Moreover there's http://www.eiss.org/ [eiss.org] -- the European Influenza Surveillance Scheme. So if you want to talk about current statistical data, it's right there and active.

Nothing like that even enters into their paper, so pardon me for finding it a bit one-sided approach.

Re:Odd (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461775)

Sorry, off topic and of course, I know that "gripe" means flu in Portugese, but a site with the name of "gripenet" just sounds like it should redirect to slashdot :P

The problem (1)

cynicsreport (1125235) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461401)

The problem with the flu is the same as the common cold; the virus mutates too quickly for scientists to create a vaccine. Molecular biologists are making great advancements in understanding the genetics of pathology - advancements are occurring at such a phenomenal rate that even studies from a few years ago are considered out of date.
The media is unfortunately oblivious to the reality of virology; announcing that the bird flu or SARS or some other pandemic will decimate the population in the near future gets great ratings. Unfortunately, it is not the scientists who are releasing these stories. It is reporters, editors, publishers, with no real understanding of medicine, genetics, pathology, or virology.

Re:The problem (1)

SnoopJeDi (859765) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461443)

The editors and assholes that release sensationalist claims have to get their initial lead to follow into stupid bullshit.

Maybe PR in the field of science needs a little sprucing up.

not true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21463737)

I follow this subject daily so you might want to check your facts better. It's not generic reporters, it is national health institutes and the WHO and so on who do the original reporting based on hard science and they are *concerned* about it. Right now we are looking at a 50% mortality rate for any humans who contract the disease. It is marginally hard to get it now, but it is quite possible, and we are one mutation away from it being a major problem. If you want a reference, Spanish flu, which killed millions back in the 19 and teens, was only 10% lethal and it was a mutation from another strain of avian flu. If you *really* think this isn't a big deal I would suggest more research rather than a flip dismissal. Current treatments that exist are barely above the joke level, they just plain don't work and that is the best we have right now.

Personally, I have made preparations for the eventuality of sheltering in place for months if not longer based on what I have read and how I understand pandemics and corrolating it with past examples. And it is precisely because all the models and wargaming show such a fast spread once this mutation occurs, and because governments know full well there isn't much to stop it, given globalization and how fast humans travel. And every time they run new models they are forced to up their estimates of potential mortality figures, let alone the tremendous shock to the world economy, in essence, it would cause a major global depression. And they anticpate waves of infections, several, over a multi year time frame.

    Oddly enough, the areas least affected economically are those areas now considered the poorest nations and regions, only because they are already living "mean" and close to subsistence level and don't "enjoy" such fast interaction with other humans. Your "just in time" modern delivery systems in the developed world collapse under all the models and wargames they have run, and that is only at Spanish flu rates of illness/mortality (all they dare talk about in public right now), not anything like 50% (which is a distinct possibility and if they said that right now it would cause panic, so they don't). There would be a cascading set of failures then, along with additional opportunistic disease spread once huge numbers of the population are weakened and the medical system gets strained beyond belief.

    If you want to know how severe, they are already planning on mass graves and cremation and regional enforced quarantines up to and including the possibility of using lethal force to maintain them. they not only plan on it, several nations have passed laws specifically about this manner, total military control during such an epidemic/pandemic. You would be facing severe food shortages and famine or near famine in a lot of areas (areas that have not experienced such famines for over 100 years or more, no living historical reference), devastating disruption to electrical delivery, natural gas delivery, breakdowns in water supply and treatment plants, foodstuffs delivery and so on. Our society doesn't work with huge numbers of people out sick or dead. A few percent a day is the tops we can handle, what is going on right now, beyond that, it starts to unrvel quickly. You can see that in any regular normal natural disaster, now compound that by the totally random and harmful influences of caregivers, delivery people, infrastructure maintainers, etc, all affected, either directly by the infection and killed or sick bad or being forced into 24/7 work leading to exhaustion and quite simply, PTSD and madness because it would be total and ongoing.

There are a plethora of reasons why avian flu news tends to be alarmist-because it's a true major threat. Pandemics are an historical fact of life, some are more severe than others but the h5n1 virus has the potential ability to knock the top off the scale of "severe".

FWIW I am not a medical professional but am in a business where we receive reports that the general public doesn't get to see or hear about because it affects (and very quickly) our business severely. This is not a joke and if anything, the popular press reporting is lowballing the potentialities.

ooohhh my god!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461407)

And if you stand downwind of an interconnected wind farm, is there a risk of methane-eating bacteria being loosed by robot-helicopters that are simply trying to protect each other from Big (no hyphen) Brother?

What about the children??? They want flu too! No one ever thinks about the children! I mean, the sky is falling and all Zonk can think of to worry about is will it be done falling by the time his /. shift is over so he can write the post-postpartum?

how about doing what nature intended instead (3, Insightful)

2ms (232331) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461447)

I have an idea. How about letting the human species's immune system continue to adapt for the flu rather than short-circuiting continued adaptation the way we are in countless other areas by creating drugs that then eventually become ineffective as the diseases evolve while human immune systems devolve and put all that research time and money toward some of the infinite number of more pressing problems that need to be addressed now? We're the one species that's going to go down as not only having messed up the planet and ecosystems for all the other species, but also the one that actually largely put the most effort they possibly could into actually making themselves maladapted to the very planet they forced the most adaption of species for.

Re:how about doing what nature intended instead (1)

Non-Huffable Kitten (1142561) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461495)

Because an individual is conscious while an abstract thing like "the human species/gene pool" is not. Fortunately, many of us value the good of the former more than the good of the latter (trying to value the latter one more tends to lead to less-than-nice results.). This is not a game of Civ.

Re:how about doing what nature intended instead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461959)

Moreover, insofar as nature, an impersonal concept, is able to intend things, there is the possibility that nature doesn't intend humans to survive at all.

Re:how about doing what nature intended instead (1)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461509)

Nature intended nothing. If we survive by foregoing adaption, so be it. The means are judged only according to their ends.

Re:how about doing what nature intended instead (1)

misanthrope101 (253915) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461819)

Because no one wants another pandemic like the one that killed more people than WWI. No one wants to be responsible for that, so they use the tools they have available--antibiotics. Those tools become less effective every day, but when it's all you have it's all you have.

As far as being "maladapted," it depends on how you want to look at it. All species will reproduce until they come up against the limits of the resources. Other animals don't reach equilibrium with the earth because they're smarter, but because they don't have our ability to change to earth to suit our ends, at least not beyond the scale of bird nests, beaver dams and so on.

If the oil runs out before we have a viable energy source, our population will decrease substantially, because billions will just die. This is assuming that disease doesn't get us first. We aren't exempt from the resource constraints faced by other organisms; we just have the capacity to manipulate the environment more extensively than they can, so we widen our window a bit. Ultimately we're doomed of course, but the ride was fun.

Re:how about doing what nature intended instead (1)

jschottm (317343) | more than 6 years ago | (#21465367)

Because no one wants another pandemic like the one that killed more people than WWI. No one wants to be responsible for that, so they use the tools they have available--antibiotics. Those tools become less effective every day, but when it's all you have it's all you have.

The WWI era pandemic was an influenza virus pandemic and antibiotics do not affect it. People who think that antibiotics work against the flu are part of why they become less effective every day.

Re:how about doing what nature intended instead (1)

misanthrope101 (253915) | more than 6 years ago | (#21469697)

Sadly, I knew this. Just wasn't thinking of the virus/bacteria difference when I wrote it. Doh!

Flu vaccine *does* let humans adapt to nature. (4, Informative)

KWTm (808824) | more than 6 years ago | (#21461851)

I have an idea. How about letting the human species's immune system continue to adapt for the flu rather than short-circuiting continued adaptation the way we are in countless other areas by creating drugs that then eventually become ineffective as the diseases evolve while human immune systems devolve?
You seem to be lumping vaccination in with other anti-infectious measures that protect you from exposure, such as sterilizing potentially infectious objects or wearing disposable gloves, but in this case your concerns are not valid.

Vaccination stimulates the human species' [no need for "s" after the apostrophe] immune system by exposing it to a safe version of the pathogen. In this way the immune system continues to "adapt for the flu", exactly as you had hoped, and in no way short-circuits the continued adaptation. As the influenza virus mutates, so does the vaccination, and each year the scientists try to figure out which strain of flu to protect against. (One year they guessed wrong, and the flu vaccine ended up next to useless as it protected against a strain of flu that only appeared in a small minority of people.)

Even for other vaccinations such as TdaP (tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis) which is given only every ten years, vaccinations don't interfere with adaptation. The special case you may be thinking of is with smallpox, which was completely eradicated to the point that there is no further need for vaccination. That is not interference with adaptation, since:
  • any reintroduction of smallpox is by artificial means, so in any case adaptation has nothing to do with it
  • it's not worthwhile continuing to administer smallpox vaccine to let the immune system "adapt" to a potential smallpox outbreak, since the smallpox vaccine itself has a number of significant side effects. I myself was offered the smallpox vaccine shortly after the Sept11 incidents, and there was a non-negligible chance of serious illness including hospitalization and, by extension, death. (I did accept, but the threat level then decreased and it was no longer considered necessary.)
  • if smallpox were to return due to natural circumstances rather than some human reintroducing the locked-up version, it would evolve from an existing virus in the wild, and vaccinations would play no part in whether the human immune system adapted
  • Letting the human immune system adapt doesn't work all that well. SARS is an example of a virus for which we don't have a vaccine, and it had a mortality rate approaching 10%. That sucks. No antibiotics or other antimicrobial drugs, either, so you can't blame it on that.
I don't know if you're actually referring to the use of antibiotics, where pathogens do evolve against a fixed, unchanging drug molecule, but there are certainly advantages to having antibiotics, too, just as there are appropriate circumstances for sterilizing medical instruments or wearing disposable gloves. Nowadays we can treat skin cancer by a simple office procedure, for which the risk is negligible. Can you imagine if we didn't use sterile instruments, or if the doctor didn't wear sterile gloves, or we couldn't treat a surgical wound infection with antibiotics?

Be careful not to confuse excessive anti-exposure measures with vaccination, which takes leverages rather than suppresses the immune system.

species's (1)

LandruBek (792512) | more than 6 years ago | (#21467575)

By my reading of Strunk [bartleby.com] , of Strunk and White, the possessive of "species" should be "species's":

Form the possessive singular of nouns with 's. Follow this rule whatever the final consonant.

Strunk names a few exceptions to this rule, but none of them apply here.

I don't mean to be a grammar nazi, but the parent did bring up the subject.

Put 's after singular noun ending in s? (1)

KWTm (808824) | more than 6 years ago | (#21468633)

That's what I love about Slashdot --you learn something new every day!

Thanks for the tip. A few more corrections like this, and I'll have enough experience points to advance to the next level of Grammar Nazi! :)

Re:how about doing what nature intended instead (3, Interesting)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 6 years ago | (#21462031)

In one sense I totally agree with you. We need to exercise our "natural" immune system in order for it to become stronger. On the other hand, part of human evolutionary adaptation gave us the ability to modify our situation/environment.

With respect to the bird flu (being mentioned a lot in the replies), one of the best observations I have heard is that the real bird flu threat is the one you contract from KFC and McDonalds Chicken Nuggets, et al. Heart disease and obesity. That probably kills far more than all influenzas and pneumonias in the U.S. and Canada each year. :) A lot of people will need to become immune to all the advertising for that epidemic to die down.

Re:how about doing what nature intended instead (1)

YoungHack (36385) | more than 6 years ago | (#21465467)

"In one sense I totally agree with you. We need to exercise our 'natural' immune system in order for it to become stronger. On the other hand, part of human evolutionary adaptation gave us the ability to modify our situation/environment."

I've always pondered that getting a flu shot every year is exercising your immune system. Certainly, I don't take it as obvious that if you get the flu shot and are later exposed to the real virus that something magic happened and your immune system didn't get to hammer on a real invader because you weren't made miserable for a week.

And in years when you aren't exposed to the flu virus, the shot gives you a (perhaps smaller) workout then too. By that measure, getting a vaccination every year could well be more exercise for your immune system than the old fashioned way. You get exposed to at least 3 sets of virus pattern every year by means of the shot.

Personally, I work in the college setting. The flu shot is always the "best known prediction" so I am bound to come down with flu from time to time whether I get immunized or not. My kid will pick up the flu from time to time at school whether she is immunized or not. There are going to be opportunities for the immune system to get the "full test."

Re:how about doing what nature intended instead (1)

dcollins (135727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21462759)

Look, human physical evolution is simply over, and it has been for some time. As long as we have medical intervention that saves lives prior to childbearing years that will be the case -- are you really recommending a regime where any children who get a disease are allowed to die off, while those 25+ get medical care?

I wouldn't want to live in a worl like that, neither would most people. That's basic human compassion. Good riddance to evolution -- our future is in our own hands now, and we have to be smart about it.

Re:how about doing what nature intended instead (3, Insightful)

YoungHack (36385) | more than 6 years ago | (#21464133)

"How about letting the human species's immune system continue to adapt for the flu rather than short-circuiting continued adaptation the way we are in countless other areas by creating drugs that then eventually become ineffective as the diseases evolve while human immune systems devolve and put all that research time and money toward some of the infinite number of more pressing problems that need to be addressed now?"

That sounds great, but adaptation at the level of a species as we understand it happens through evolution. To clarify, you're basically saying, "Let the weak die (of pneumonia and complications) and the strong survive." If you believe that, perhaps by your logic we really should refrain from vaccinating kids. If they die young before reproducing, then evolution has been served. With luck, in about 20 generations we may see some difference, although we're talking about random processes (i.e. there's no guarantee).

But the old are past child-bearing age. They've passed on their genes or they haven't. How is the species to be served by their suffering? Personally, comments like the quote sound more like pseudo-science than reasonable argument. It seems like wisdom to say we meddle too much until it is your precious 3-year-old daughter in the intensive care unit.

Re:how about doing what nature intended instead (1)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21464927)

how about fight flu with drugs and train our immune system at the same time?

But? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461465)

That is correct to a certain extent. However not everyone in the world can "adapt" and survive this disease. The elderly are more at risk to the influenza, so are infants. Furthermore, in poverty-stricken countries, it is sometimes not possible for the population to have the nutrition available to provide a strong immunity system.

Bird flu is nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461553)

A bird cannot kill a man and neither can its flu.

Re:Bird flu is nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461781)

A bird COULD kill a man, but only if it dropped a coconut from precisely the right height... by a swallow.

American Newsspeak in Action (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21461931)

...ordinary flu kills several orders of magnitude more people each year and represents a significant threat to our society.

Are you scared yet?

Re:American Newsspeak in Action (1)

Durrok (912509) | more than 6 years ago | (#21462387)

Yes, and for some odd reason I suddenly feel the urge to go out and buy something!

Heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21462023)

The reason why the ordinary flu kills more people than bird flu each year is that it spreads between humans. Bird flu doesn't... yet.

AI (1)

Iwanowitch (993961) | more than 6 years ago | (#21462057)

Sounds like the perfect job for an AI system to figure out. A Bayesian net or a hidden Markov model should be right up to this. Less complaining, more coding!

Re:AI (1)

frisket (149522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21462369)

There are already several perfectly good epidemic models for the spread of disease, including some which handle multiple sources.

What's needed is more data, not more models.

Page rank up! (1)

ckolar (43016) | more than 6 years ago | (#21462073)

I like how the next article on the blog is about increasing your Google page rank and tips for within-site cross linking. The link from slashdot should help.

fears seem well placed (2, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 6 years ago | (#21462327)

Let's take a look at the last century. As I see it, roughly half of the people who died of flu, did so in the 1918 pandemic. In other words, one single variant of the flu killed as much as a century's worth of regular flu. It makes no sense to ignore a flu variant which to all appearances is more lethal than the 1918 flu (all we know is that more than half of the people who we figure out had it die which is much worse in general than the 1918 flu was), even if it is barely contagious. Obviously, there might be a big drop in lethality, if it adapts to humans. But if there isn't, and as in the 1918 flu epidemic, it infects about 20% of humanity (as I dimly recall), then that means 10% of humanity dies (as opposed to about 2% for the 1918 flu).

In fact, things are much worse now (2, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 6 years ago | (#21463383)

In 1917-18 human mobility was much less than it is now, and a much lower percentage of humanity lived in large cities. Cheap air, bus and train travel mean that viruses can spread much faster than they could in 1918. Also, the fear of disease is much less and people will less willingly take precautions against exposure. Given the short exposure needed and the rapid incubation of the influenza virus, the spread could be so rapid as to overwhelm government agencies and hospitals. The Black Death reduced the population of medieval Europe by more than a third.

Recent tests of symptomatic treatment of influenza have shown that this doesn't work, i.e. the lethality of the virus is based on its primary action. Given that governments will probably be too afraid or powerless to stop all air travel and movement from affected areas when it starts, this could realistically happen again.

The worst of it is that it will probably start in China , where a major population reduction would probably suit the Communist Party down to the ground. The survivors would be too busy reconstructing society to think about revolution, and the pressure on resources would suddenly drop dramatically. Provided they could protect themselves, the leaders of China would have little reason to try and stop a world wide influenza pandemic.

Probabilities (1)

hansraj (458504) | more than 6 years ago | (#21463195)

FTFS:

For instance, given that the disease has manifested itself clinically in an individual, what are the chances of that person dying?
I would say that in the long run the probability of that person dying is 1.

Nope (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#21463453)

"Bird flu gets all the headlines but ordinary flu kills several orders of magnitude more people each year and represents a significant threat to our society.
Not really. The regular flu is a fairly known quantity, kills off a few with poor immune system and may be a threat to the individual dying but isn't a threat to society at all. On the other hand, a powerful new pandemic (remember, disease now travels at airplane speed) can kill off a lot of healthy young people, cause general panic and really threaten society. To evaluate the threat to society, you have to be a bit of a cynic and ask "Would society keep going as before?". And yes, it does.

flu (1)

ralph1 (900228) | more than 6 years ago | (#21463905)

so we could save more lives by checking there temperature than there background.

The hype is somewhat justified (1)

bungo (50628) | more than 6 years ago | (#21463921)

OK, so bird flu gets more press than normal human strains.

I think the question is not is bird flu more dangerous than normal flu, but what will happen if bird flu infects people and then mutates.

Normal human strains of flu have been around for a long time, sometime mutates into something really bad. We have had a lot of experience of this, and there are a lot of infection models.

We know nothing of what will happen if bird flu gets into humans and mutates because it hasn't yet happened (although there is conjecture that this is what happend with the flu outbreak during the great war).

It's just like saying that those NASA people are wasting money tracking asteroids, as mankind hasn't suffered a big asteroid strike, and it's all hype. I would rather have some people looking into these things and generating hype, instead of directing their resources into something else (like preventing car accidents) even though it would give a better lives saved to dollar ratio.

Paranoia (1)

Easy2RememberNick (179395) | more than 6 years ago | (#21464849)

We had a nurse at work give Flu shots but only six of 150 employees got one, the same number as last year. Last year nearly everyone in the entire building, except for those who had the shot, got the Flu.

  When I asked people why, their excuses were: they saw something on the Internet about how vaccines makes you sick, it will give you the Flu, they want their body to fight it naturally, there's mercury in it. I was amazed at the level of paranoia.

  One woman had a valid excuse she lost her hearing after receiving a flu shot but it was temporary and I have no idea why she said it was because of the shot but I have no way of knowing for sure.

  I said, well, they're nuts and for example would you rather get Polio or a vaccine to prevent it rather than the full force of the virus? And it's arrogant too not to get a Flu shot since just because it may not affect you much you may pass it on to an elderly person, a baby or a person with sever health problems.

one thing everyone forgets (1)

CupBeEmpty (720791) | more than 6 years ago | (#21468053)

Bird Flu is not some kind of crazy new flu. It is regular flu. It happens to be a strain that is particularly virulent but not so great at spreading from human to human. It is the same virus that causes regular flu but has a chromosomal arrangement that is just not so great for birds or people. That is what makes influenza so versatile and adaptable. It has a rearrangeable chromosome.

Infectious Disease background (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21469249)

The authors seem to have "discovered" exactly the problem that infectious disease reseachers have been working on since the influenza virus was first discovered. In order to do mathematical modeling of an epidemic you have to know a number of factors. Things like how contagious is it (human to human and human to animal), how long a person is contagious, the case fatality rate etc. The problem is that these basic quantities change every year or so as new influenza viruses appear.
    Because the epidemiology of influenza changes from year to year it is difficult (impossible?) to predict which years you really need an influenza vaccine and which years you probably do not.
    I would recommend that people heed the advice of their national public health experts. In the U.S. that is the Centers for Disease Control.
    On the other hand, if you want to get your medical advice from slashdot comments, then knock yourself out.
Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>