Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Where Are The Locusts?

Every time a new strain of influenza appears, everyone thinks, "1918!" and goes into overdrive. But from what I can see, even in Mexico where things seem worst, this isn't all that bad. Yet. According to the AP today, there are fewer than 3,000 cases worldwide, and fewer than 160 deaths. The U.S. kills more people than that in traffic every week, and we don't even twitch. And we even have a drug that cures the stuff (so far); in 1918 they didn't know what a virus was.

The world situation is getting so bad you wonder - is someone trying to send us a message? Global warming is changing the climate; the global economy has tanked; millions of people are out of jobs; international trade is in the sewer; and now we have the swine flu.

We need to start worrying when we see the plague of locusts. Or the rain of frogs.


  1. Agreed. To the question of "why is it so much less lethal in the US", the best answer so far is "it's not". It's likely that since H1N1 originated in Mexico, there are far more cases there at this stage in its spread than in the United States - yet there are far fewer cases *reported*. Why? Because people in Mexico are probably less likely, or able (based on transportation and communication challenges) to report an infection, relative to people in the U.S. So, bluntly, this theory is that H1N1 is only a slightly worse-than-normal flu, and the death rate only seems bad in Mexico because cases are underreported.

    I'm definitely going to eat pork tonight.

  2. We had pork chops Tuesday night. The most bizarre side effect of all this is the conviction of some people that they can catch the flu by eating the cooked meat of an animal that had it. Do these people actually not understand germ theory at all? (Don't bother to answer that; it was rhetorical...)

    And you're quite right about the difference between Mexico and the U.S. in terms of reporting illness. Yesterday the papers were trumpeting the "first U.S. fatality" - but it was a Mexican kid (poor baby) brought into Texas for treatment! That's not a "U.S. fatality" by any normal measure.

  3. The greatest threat to the world population is crowding.

    The first plagues in Europe, and later in the New World, were the result of people congregating too closely. Germs (viruses and bacteria) mutate fast in the crucible of contagion. Epidemiologists and other experts in the field worry that we'll inoculate ourselves into total jeopardy by making super-bugs. And we'll speed up the process of mutation by passing strains around faster than science can catch up with them.

    This is a real concern, actually more so among domestic animal populations, than in the wild, where natural curbs on numbers tend to mitigate against explosive contagion.

    We haven't even seen the tip of the iceberg yet. AIDS and the Ebola virus are like the rumble of distant thunder at a picnic. Much more is certain to follow.

    The world population is way beyond the holding capacity of the earth, way way beyond. We can reduce it sensibly, or nature will take care of the dirty work for us. As always, I'm glad I won't live to see it. Humanity is really stupid, and this is a perfect example.