We’ve been hearing a lot recently about Swine Flu turning into a pandemic and that a pandemic is bad. The second part is normally not stated but the assumption that if something turns into a pandemic it’s not good. The word sounds dangerously close to epidemic and it isn’t a happy sounding word, in fact it does sound damn bad. But is it?
I still believe (and can see by the data) that at this moment our global economy is suffering from an epidemic of bored journalists and editors who need to fill the 24 hr news cycle. So, I decided to see what the words really mean.
First, epidemic – Wikipedia has the following:
In epidemiology, an epidemic (from Greek epi- upon + demos people) occurs when new cases of a certain disease occur in a given human population, during a given period, substantially exceed what is "expected," based on recent experience (the number of new cases in the population during a specified period of time is called the "incidence rate")
The following are epidemics:
- Aids in the early 80s
- Drug use during each generation – Cocaine, Crack, Meth, propane
- the popularity of this generation’s R&B
Epidemics are bad. And they’re damn scary so why isn’t the media using epidemic for Swine Flu 2009? Because, it’s not an epidemic – just new. Like I said yesterday, this thing appears to be one deviation away from epidemic status, which ain’t good. But, for now it is not.
But, back to my bored media premise and the need for a ‘scary word’ to get people to forget about the you get sick, go to the doctor early, you get better story arc for Swine (assuming your not too old, too young but that’s the same as any other flu).
So, let’s look at pandemic – again from Wikipedia:
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a pandemic can start when three conditions have been met:
* Emergence of a disease new to a population.
* Agents infect humans, causing serious illness.
* Agents spread easily and sustainably among humans.
A disease or condition is not a pandemic merely because it is widespread or kills many people; it must also be infectious. For instance, cancer is responsible for many deaths but is not considered a pandemic, because the disease is not infectious or contagious. Pandemic – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Yes, Swine flu for humans is a pandemic (or darn close) but that doesn’t mean more than the fact it’s new, human’s are the targets, and it can go from human to human. It is true that most epidemics start as pandemics and then graduate since everything on the epidemic list cut its teeth as a pandemic first – but don’t be fooled by a scary word.
Not yet. There’s plenty of those out there including mortality rates and epidemic. Here’s hoping that Mexico City’s mayor is right and that the cases there are starting to stabilize. Stable is better than volatile since that implies this version of Swine flu can’t easily mutate.