Posts Tagged With: H1N1

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.

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H1N1 – a real scare?

Over the last few months, one of the dominant stories in the evening headlines has been about this new strain of influenza, H1N1. I don’t know much about it so I decided to spend a few minutes taking a look at some of the details. To be honest, I’ve been thinking about the scares over the last few years – remember SARS, Y2K, terrorism. How much of these are things to be truly scared of, how many are tempests in a teacup? Remember Y2K – according to pretty much every major news source and media commentator, the world as we knew it was going be changed forever. SARS was promoted as a global epidemic. Neither of these amounted to anything. It seems like we live in a state of fear with a major global ‘scare’ coming along every year or two to keep us in check.

The Centre for Disease Control in the US states that in the US, about 36,000 people die each year from flu-related complications; globally this number increases to almost 500,000. Worldwide, someone dies from tuberculosis every 15 seconds – 240 per hour. The WHO states that as of 17 Oct 09 there have been 5000 reported deaths worldwide from H1N1 in 2009 which equates to roughly 0.75 of a person per hour. The United Nations website states that about 25,000 people die each DAY from malnutrition – 1041 per hour compared to 0.75 people per hour for H1N1. Remember SARS? Again, the WHO reports that worldwide about 774 people died from SARS – the same number die from malnutrition in less than 1 hour. In the US, nearly 7000 people die per day from all causes – to date for 2009, H1N1 is responsible for 0.0107% of the total deaths in the US each day, an amount not even worth calculating. You have a better chance (0.70% of all deaths) of being murdered in the USA than dying of H1N1.

These numbers obviously beg the question why we (governments) are spending billions on fighting H1N1 while thousands of times more people are dying from a much simpler condition – they just don’t have enough to eat. Would not this money be better used to improve farming, water supply, machinery and ‘know how’ for farmers around the world? While I respect the fact that health professionals and the media are suggesting that pregnant women or young children and other “at-risk” groups make sure they have a H1N1 shot, I must admit that I am very skeptical about the motives behind the promotion of such a “pandemic” mentality regarding the condition. What I do believe, however, is the profit motive. If you’ve ever read about Monsanto or other multinationals, you know that profit is the only motive and everything else, including truth, is subservient to the ultimate goal of generating shareholder return. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 2 approved treatments for H1N1, known by their trade names, Tamiflu and Relenza. Although under licence with a number of different companies, pharmaceutical giant Roche is the primary owner of Tamiflu while GlaxoSmithKline owns Relenza. Not only do these companies have a monopoly on supply of the H1N1 flu shot, in many cases, governments around the world (including Canada) have actually given Roche and Glaxo immunity from law suits should people receiving the shot develop one of many disturbing side effects. These companies aren’t ‘evil’ in and of themselves; they are just driven to provide a product and generate a return on investment for their shareholders. Putting an end to malnutrition doesn’t make money; providing millions of doses of a drug does.

As noted, I’m not a health care professional or scientist and I admit I am probably not seeing all sides of the H1N1 furor. It will be interesting to see how big an ‘issue’ H1N1 turns out to be – will it in turn into a true pandemic such as the Black Death of the mid 1400s or the influenza outbreak in 1918 or will it fade into the abyss like SARS?

Sources: GlaxoSmithKline, Roche Pharmaceuticals, CDC.gov, UN.org, WHO.int, CIA Factbook, National Vital Statistics USA,

Categories: Commentary, General interest | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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