STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Only 7 Swine Flu Deaths, Not 152, Says WHO
By - April 30, 2009

A member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has dismissed claims that more than 150 people have died from swine flu, saying it has officially recorded only seven deaths around the world. Vivienne Allan, from WHO's patient safety program, said the body had confirmed that worldwide there had been just seven deaths – all in Mexico – and 79 confirmed cases of the disease. Face masks are worn by some at Sydney Airport, but many say strict new swine flu precautions are in reality 'low key'. "Unfortunately that [150-plus deaths] is incorrect information and it does happen, but that's not information that's come from the World Health Organisation," Ms Allan told ABC Radio today. – Sydney Morning Herald

Dominant Social Theme: Revisions happen.

Free-Market Analysis: We stayed away from commenting on the swine flue sickness because we have learned from experience that once the mainstream media gets into full cry on a story, the story inevitably changes and the reporting is deficient, or at least inaccurate.

In this case, the obvious oddity was that while everyone was donning masks and agitating for an immediate vaccine as a result of some 150-flu related deaths in Mexico, no one was dying elsewhere. No one. Either the Mexican flu was a far stronger variant of the flu or the statistics in Mexico were scrambled. We were betting the latter, and we still are. The WHO report seems to confirm it.

So … where are we in reality? We have, as of this writing, seven deaths in Mexico out of some 80 cases worldwide – still a 10 percent number, but the key here is CONFIRMED cases (if we can believe WHO at all). There are perhaps other cases that were never brought to the attention of those collecting such statistics, maybe hundreds, even thousands. Additionally, the virus is not airborne but caused by droplets. You know, currently, Mexican drug dealers seem to be killing a great deal more people than this bug.

In another day and another age, the sickening of seven Mexicans – sad as it is – would not have galvanized the whole of the Western world into something resembling a panic. It would not have smashed down certain companies' stock prices, it would not have demanded that world leaders make regularly scheduled statements on the matter.

And there is every reason to believe – even as the news about the bug indicates lessened danger – that Western countries will now ramp up precautions, showing that the professional safety providers have the psychology of projectiles. Set on a certain course, they don't deviate. We await the shut-down of border crossings, enlarged quarantines and detentions and even the grounding of the aviation industry.

Obama: Schools with infections may have to closse … President Barack Obama says school authorities with confirmed cases of swine flu should consider closing. The president said Wednesday morning that Americans "should know" the government is doing all that it can to contain the emerging health menace. – AP

After Thoughts

Here's a fearless prediction. Absent a mutation or discovery of aggressive airborne infection, Swine flu will not end up being the equivalent of the 1918 influenza – about which there are also significant questions. Another one: Some large, lucky pharmaceutical companies will be paid millions if not billions to produce a vaccine that may not ever be used, or not to the degree of fullness anticipated. If it is not used, then it will be added to the "stockpile" of many other unused flue vaccines. And perhaps some of the excess will be stored in the many Western military labs and facilities that continually tinker with these viruses, creating new and deadlier ones all the time as a result of scientific research. Fortunately the security is good, the protocols are rigorous, and few of these deadlier samples ever get liberated from their secure environs.

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