H1N1 revisited

Back in October I wrote a post about H1n1 and how I thought the whole scare was basically over-hyped. Again, let me say that obviously I’m not a medical person and that yes, I realize some children and other high-risk people died as a result of H1N1 and that the vaccines which were developed probably helped some people.  At the time of my original post in mid-October, the 2009 worldwide death toll directly attributable to H1N1 was about 5000. According to update #78 from the World Health Organization (WHO), as of 6 Dec 09 this number had increased to 9596.  The European Centre for Disease Control has a slightly higher figure of 11,033.  Over the same time period, how many people have died in global conflicts?  WHO states that in sub-Saharan Africa, a child dies from malaria every 30 seconds (262,800 per year).

I know that part of the reason that the number of deaths worldwide due to H1N1 is low is that action was taken but I often wonder about the state of fear created during such events.  There are now many notable physicians and experts who are stating that the H1N1 threat was exaggerated; you can read a few articles quoting Dr. Richard Schabas here and here.  Schabas was the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario.  One interesting statistic he provides is that in Mexico, where it appears as though the first serious H1N1 case originated, a normal ‘moderate’ pandemic would result in at least 30,000 deaths.  At present, between 700-800 people have died in Mexico from H1N1 complications, a rate of approximately 0.0007% on a population of about 106 million.

Over the last week or two, we’ve seen BC, Ontario and Nova Scotia say that the H1N1 infections have peaked and are on the decline.  In fact, it appears as though the WHO will announce sometime in January that the ‘pandemic, is over.  So where is the H1N1 in the headlines now?  Well, I played around with Google Trends and generated the chart below which shows the 2009 results for Canada for all searches on H1N1.  You can see that the searches peaked in late October (coincidentally the same time that the story was front and centre on every newscast and newspaper) and have rapidly decreased ever since.

H1N1 searches in Canada in 2009

It will be interesting to see what happens with this pandemic over the next few months.  Where do you stand on the whole issue?  Click the poll below to voice your opinion.

Categories: Commentary, General interest | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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