"Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make every day a holiday and celebrate just living!" - Amanda Bradley

Thursday, April 30, 2009

the flu

In an effort to once more undo the machinations of politicos and media I would like to take a short break to make a distinction between 2 very important words.

Epidemic and Pandemic.

Pandemic is when an illness (in this case the swine flu) crosses populations (usually nations although the World Health Organization requires continents/geographic regions).  A pandemic can in fact exist with lower than average incident rates (the swine flu is no where near achieving a flu season population infection right now and at the rate it is going won't unless it is still around in 6 months.)  Pandemic represent only the potential for greater infection statistically as they are averaged across populations on a global scale.  You cannot have a pandemic in a single country.

An Epidemic is when an illness substantially exceeds average incident rates within a population.  This is what you have to worry about because it means that a bunch of people are "actually sick", not "might get sick".  The 1918, 50s and 60s flu pandemics were in fact "epidemics" and "pandemics"  because the rate of actual sick was higher than normal (over twice the average instance of "seasonal flu") and a bunch of countries were sick. 

New rule-to be a journalist or politician you must achieve a B grade or higher on the SAT language definition section.

Trivia-this last cold season many of you may have caught the creeping crud (a very nasty form of bacterial infection that followed closely on the heels of the cold.)  This was an epidemic because it affected huge chunks of the US and Canada population.  (School closures were reported in many areas.)  However the infection did not travel well and it did not leave North America so it never became a pandemic.

I hope this helps fight some of the panic and misdirection being sown out there.


  1. The media would love nothing more than a modern black plague. They get off on scaring the masses. I talked to one of the after-care ladies at our kid's preschool yesterday, and she was surprised when I informed her that swine flu was not immediately and assuredly fatal... that it's "the flu" and if she got sick, she'd have "the flu", and that if she had a weakened immune system, then she'd have to be conserned, just like if she were to get any other "flu". Ugh. Another friend works in a hospital... where the ED was full to the brim with people wanting to be swabbed for the flu... including many people with no symptoms! The doctors came out and walked around the room telling people to leave. They've had a 10 to 12 hour wait for the last couple days!

  2. Thanks Troy. I (seriously) was just going to look up the difference between pandemic and epidemic... I'm already tired of hearing "pandemic" (dundunDUN!)- it should come with ominous sound effects - every other minute in the news.


  3. Thanks for clearing that up. I get it.

    But I still don't want other people using my desk or my phone.

    The media is creating a panic because there is nothing new going on out there, just the sucky economy. And we all know about that, all ready.

  4. Thanks Troy sometimes the media runs amuck.

  5. If anyone ever doubted the power of the media... I wonder if its ever been used for anything other than honorable intentions? Nah... that would never happen. :|
    - Pete


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