Pig plague 2.0: Can't spell 'pandemic' without 'panic'
If you can read this you're not dead, yet
The internet has responded to the absolutely positively inevitable pandemic of swine flu with typical restraint and a decent sense of proportion, providing everything from context-sensitive maps to an iPhone application for those preparing to flee for the hills.
The irksome fact that the majority of people who contract the new H1N1 flu strain get a bit peaky and then recover provides no reason not to panic, and Web 2.0 is ready to provide you with up-to-the second updates in case you're starting to get relaxed about the whole issue.
iPhone owners can head over to SwineFlu for aggregated content, after a few sponsors' adverts, but the rest of us don't need to feel left out: the US Center for Disease Control has set up a Twitter feed that already has almost 30,000 followers. Across Twitter there are now more than 10,000 tweets an hour on the imminent viral apocalypse, so clearly it’s a breaking subject.
Those seeking more than 140 characters on the subject can turn to Google Maps tracking of infections, with colour-coded pins to indicate confirmed and suspected cases. A significant proportion of the latter seem to be fatal, though that shouldn't be a surprise as flu is often fatal for the elderly, and even kills the healthy when combined with other diseases. Google's Flu Trends doesn't report any significant change in US infections - but that doesn't support the need for immediate panic, so is best ignored.
Equally restrained is the World Health Organisation, which isn't recommending closing international borders or even boarding up the windows, which is all rather disappointing.
Luckily, Wikipedia provides a table of infections by country, helpfully including those from probably-unrelated "influenza-like" infections. Unfortunately, the "attributed deaths" column contains an awful lot of zeros, for the moment at least.
Here in the El Reg bunker with our satellite feed we fear the worst, and so would like to take this opportunity to thank all our remaining readers for their years of loyal support and promise to provide whatever scant comfort we can. But we won't. We've got far more important hedonistic matters to attend to - our time is precious, you know. ®
U.S. no paid sick-leave a problem
AC wrote: "The biggest problem in the US is that people with no or limited healthcare don't go to the doctor and you miss the early stages on the spread which makes containing it and treating it harder."
The other thing is, many of the millions of low-income or minimum-wage workers keep on GOING TO WORK every day for as long as they possibly can in the early stages of things, because they have *NO* PAID SICK-LEAVE and they can't afford to miss any pay by taking time off from work just because they felt a little woosy or what they thought was just a cold (to *start* with, before it gets worse).
But from what I understand (generally speaking) they can still be CONTAGIOUS to everyone around them since those viruses are airborne and harder to avoid (as in, breathing).
The worker pops some cheap generic "cold medicine" (kept on hand for such occasions) to help mask the initial symptoms, you go to work and try not to let on that you feel like crap even though you're about ready to fall over, and do your best to make sure the boss doesn't notice, because you don't want to get sent home and lose a day's pay. You might be able to pull that off for some time. So you spread contagious *airborne* viruses to your CUSTOMERS and the rest of the general public - thinking of restaurant jobs, hotel/motel workers, some cashiers and the many other low-paid or minimum-wage "service" jobs that typically don't have any benefits such as paid sick-leave. It's common.
It could become a problem if a nasty enough airborne-contagious virus was involved. You'd just have to breathe a few whiffs of the same air as one of those early-stage sick workers, then you take the virus/disease home with you and spread it to your own family, friends, neighbors, your own coworkers, etc., and it goes on from there.
In the case of some new quickly-spreading highly-contagious airborne virus, seems like it could be a problem. The government tells sick people to stay home, but they go to work anyway (as far as possible) because they need the money.
I also wonder about the more urban tightly-packed populations we have now, which would speed up transmission, compared to (at least in the U.S.) the still comparatively less-urbanized populations at the time of the 1917/18 flu. You'd think we modern humans, as descendents of survivors of the 1918 flu (I lost some ancestors to that), would have some built-in genetic immunity, but maybe it doesn't quite work so neat and tidy like that, who knows.
If Susan Boyle catches swine flu...
...then presumably the whole media circus will implode. At least until the next Big Thing comes along. Next week.
Does anyone remember that time we all died from avian flu? Good times.