14 thoughts on “Swine Flu Alert!

  1. This is stupid, Swine flu is new news.
    If it had been around as long as tuberculosis, it would get reported to the same degree.

    I actually think it is concerning that currently scientists around the world and governments will not be able to handle epidemics. I think the standard and output of science should be much much higher these days considering we have far more scientists than ever in the world today, and considering the gains made in communications and information technologies.

    People are mocking swine flu because of the boy crying wolf effect. SARS has been and gone and so too has bird flu.

    But the fact remains that science and health around the world is underperforming drastically due to government regulation and monopolization.
    If a super bug does develop, there could be a potentially unnecessary serious world wide epidemic.

  2. The recent issue of Cosmos Magazine (which did not put a pretty woman on the cover, and so did not sell well) reports on the Placebo effect, and points out that the mechanics of homeopathy are impossible, even when it works, so the placebo effect must be the hidden factor.

    If any of you are feeling sick, put up lots of ‘GET WELL’ placards and just will yourself better. Or go through the ritual of visiting the doctor and getting pretty coloured pills, and, by the power of belief in Modern Medicine And Science, faith-healing yourself better.

  3. “But the fact remains that science and health around the world is underperforming drastically due to government regulation and monopolization”
    Any your non-government solution to pandemics is?

  4. Sorry, that seems to have got misspelt.

    “_and_ your non-government solution to pandemics is?”

  5. I would think the non-government solution to a pandemic would be private vaccine producers selling their product for a profit and individuals buying it so they don’t die. I paid for flu vaccine this year and I’ll probably pay for it again next year when swine flu will probably be included.

  6. Conrad, I’m talking about the state of science generally. Or more specifically the development of vaccines. I did a little work on the development of a vaccine at a biotech company and therefore I’ve had a taste of the time it takes, and the innovation stifling government regulation involved.

    I do think governments should act to protect us from pandemics by screening those entering the country.

    However I also think that governments need to get their destructive hands off education services, including universities and also health services. I also think that massive de-regulation (TGA) would be beneficial.
    I am saying that the government’s attempted monopolization of education and science and that government control of the pharmaceutical and biotech industries as well as medicine is certainly sub optimal (and immoral IMO).

    I am saying that in a truly capitalist society the risk of pandemic would still exist, but it would be less than it is now.

    As I said protection from pandemic does involve government IMO. Because one of the (few) legitamite functions of immigration is to ensure dangerous and infectious diseases do not enter Australia. I take the proper function of government to involve the protection of the right to a person’s life. This would then involve protection from incoming diseases to some degree.

    There are some truly horrifying viruses/prions/bacteria/fungi etc out there. eg/ the survival rate for something like the highly infectious, air-borne ebola virus is 10%.

  7. “I don’t know Conrad, perhaps actually letting people buy Tamiflu?”
    I agree with this (I’d like to buy some myself personally — I’ve got some old stuff I bought overseas). My thoughts were really more to do with things like SARS, and some of the fun diseases Tim R mentions. These diseases can be novel (like SARS) and with others there is simply no profitable market for. Some deregulation might help make some which are non-profitable now profitable, but it’s not clear to me who cleans up the mess when pandemics do break-out.

  8. Before 2009 we just called it the flu. There have been outbreaks of porcine flu before. Many of the strains in previous years have had novel origins. Secondly, most of the laboratory tests don’t have the specificity to distinguish between different H1N1 strains. Hence the number of reported cases may be far overblown. Thirdly, I have it on good account that Oseltamivir works for this strain.

    But the hype can have some important benefits – if those involved actually share data – due the the hype, there was a lot of data generated in terms of H1N1 lab tests and Oseltamivir prescriptions, such that the migration of the virus can be mapped and models can be made. This can be tested against the theoretical models of viral outbreaks.

  9. I do think governments should act to protect us from pandemics by screening those entering the country.

    Not for flu pandemics, and probably not most diseases. Screening requires an effective method of detection and highly coercive measures for those who test positive.

    Most infectious diseases have incubation periods that preclude reliable screening. And getting banged up just because you might be sick is not my idea of the proper role of government.

  10. Almost instantaneous tests with very high sensitivity and specificity will be available for most airbourne diseases in somewhere around 15-30 years. Throat swabs can be taken relatively quickly and aren’t as invasive compared to a nasal swab or blood test.

    Ideally individuals will be tested before they step on a plane in the first place so that appropriate measures can be taken before they infect others.

    The initiative may well be private – either airlines or airport owners during a panic where some customers are reluctant to fly due to perceived risk of infection.

  11. Yeah I agree David, a line has to be drawn and 99.9% of diseases wouldn’t make the cut.

    The instance of pandemics such as the black plague or Spanish influenza are of course rare events. But they are devastating events and I still think they are possible in our times even though we have much improved hygeine.

    As you and Architectonic point out, there are many feasibility issues here.
    If testing doesn’t actually work, then it shouldn’t be done. Where do you draw the line on what is considered working? I don’t know. Dectection would have to be highly sensitive, false positives could be a problem.

    But hopefully Architectonic is right and that if a rare but potentially devastating pandemic does occur, there will be a relatively easy screening method in the future. My concern here is that generally I think science is underperforming and way off its potential.

    Of course these days we know that good hygeine goes a long way. I recently read a very interesting blog from an Argentinian who lived through the economic troubles in his country during the 90s. One of his observations was that disease and pestilence rates in Argentina rose after water and garbage collection services were affected.

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