Factual · Powerful · Original · Iconoclastic
The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology got lots of press with its report giving a "plausible scenario" of as many as 90,000 deaths this fall and winter from swine flu. But new research and actual flu data from Australia indicate we could be in for a milder flu season than normal precisely because of swine flu.
Posted on PLoS Currents: Influenza, a Web site operated by the Public Library of Science to rapidly share scientific flu information, the study in which ferrets were infected with both swine flu H1N1 virus and the seasonal H1N1 found that the swine version spread far more efficiently. In essence, it outcompetes seasonal flu H1N1.
That's being shown even now in Australia. Being south of the equator, it's having its flu season now and the government is indeed reporting swine flu "appears to be replacing the current seasonal H1N1 virus."
But with no swine flu vaccine and swine flu cases having peaked in July, the government is reporting an epidemic not discernibly worse than in recent years. How could this be?
Simple. As I've noted repeatedly in my articles and blogs, all evidence is that swine flu is less severe than seasonal flu. Therefore, let's connect those dots. To the extent that swine flu replaces seasonal flu (and indeed becomes the seasonal flu) and is milder, there will be fewer deaths.
Lots of reporters have written about the PLoS study, yet don't expect any to draw this conclusion. It doesn't fit the "we're all gonna die" paradigm.
I have a full-length piece on the President's Council report due out tomorrow.