Virology Blog Offers Level-Headed Take on Swine Flu

If you're looking for solid information on swine flu from sources who haven't lapsed into hysterics, Professor Vincent Racaniello of Columbia University Medical Center, who has studied viruses for 30 years, publishes an excellent Virology Blog that's heavy on facts and short on panic.

Racaniello believes the flu will stop spreading soon in the U.S. for the same reason that ordinary seasonal flus fade every year around this time, but it could come back stronger in the fall:

Flu season is basically over in the US, and with the increasing heat and humidity (over 90° today in NYC) virus transmission should soon stop. However, if A/California/07/2009 (H1N1) takes hold in the southern hemisphere in the coming months - their flu season is still beginning - it is likely to return to the northern hemisphere in the fall. Unfortunately, by then extensive antiviral use in the southern hemisphere is likely to have produced drug-resistant variants.

I wish the media did a better job putting this flu in perspective. Around 250,000 to 500,000 people die each year around the world because of ordinary flus. Some of the deaths and illnesses in Mexico may still prove to be regular flus or other causes for respiratory distress -- Mexico City has extremely polluted air. Racaniello reports that only seven deaths in Mexico have been confirmed to be swine flu cases thus far.

Though this could become a pandemic, the same was true of SARS, bird flu (influenza A virus subtype H5N1) and many other bugs over the 40 years since the last one. Emerging viruses are a fact of life, whether or not the media's losing its collective mind. Wash your hands, get flu shots every fall, see a doctor when you get the flu, and don't be one of those dopes who goes to work or school when you're sick. There's nothing admirable or virtuous about toughing it out and exposing others to contagious illness. The only exception to this rule was game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals.


Thank you for posting this information about the swine flu. I did visit the virology blog and it is really great!

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