Why are cases of swine flu being reported at all?

Published: July 8, 2009 at 11:45pm


It’s just the bloody flu, for heaven’s sake.

All the health department and the news media are doing by reporting each and every individual case as it becomes known is increasing public panic, by creating the impression that this is a disease in the league of the plague.

As my home-help insisted this morning, when she expressed fear at the latest list on Calypso Radio and I told her that swine flu is even less debilitating than ordinary flu:

“But then why would they be reporting individual cases on the radio if it really is as you say?”

Because it’s the silly season, I replied.

It seems that newsrooms and the health department have nothing better to do than behave irresponsibly and create a false impression of reality. Get a grip everyone. It’s just the flu. And it’s summer. It could be worse: you could get the common cold, for example, and spend half the night propped up on pillows unable to breathe.

timesofmalta.com Wednesday, 8th July 2009
Media criticised by Gharb council

The Gharb council has criticised journalists for passing on information which could lead to the identification of people who were infected with the (A) H1N1 virus.

It said it was working with the Health Department and with Parliamentary Secretary for Prevention Mario Galea so that all the necessary precautions would be taken to protect victims.

The council said that while the media were mentioning the Gozitan victims’ localities, this was not being done for the cases in Malta. This was causing alarm and negatively affecting tourism.

23 Comments Comment

  1. H.P. Baxxter says:

    Right, Daphne, we need some torches, some wooden stakes, plenty of firewood, and a very angry lynch mob. Meet me outside Gharb at midnight tomorrow.

  2. Yanika says:

    I think it’s just the fact that it is a completely new strain, and perhaps also the fact that while everyone was expecting the pandemic to start in the East by H5N1 (remember that? It seems so long ago!). It fooled them and kicked them in the rear by the sudden emergence of the H1N1 from the West. It’s called the element of surprise.

  3. Chris II says:

    My Feelings exactly – the only good (or really bad) thing that this flu has brought about is the fact that as a dress rehearsal of the real thing, it has shown that none of the World’s Health Departments and experts have got it right. Their plans and projections have completely failed to contain the disease as well as its spread.

    On the other hand, once this pandemic passes, people will realise that it was much ado about nothing with the real risk that if a killer pandemic of the 1918/19 type occurs they will be less inclined to take the necessary precautions.

    [Daphne – I have doubts about whether the 1918 strain was really a killer, rather than just emerging in a world laid waste by four years of war, in which huge numbers of western medical workers, including doctors, had died on the battlefield, and most people were severely weakened by poor food, appalling living conditions and the near-total absence of hygiene. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that since people in the west have been strengthened by better food, better living conditions and better hygiene, there has been no ‘killer’ flu.]

    • Tim Ripard says:

      Indeed, plus better medicine (diagnostics, medicaments).

    • Chris II says:

      [Daphne – And bang on cue, David, here’s a geneticist, no less.]

      Though World War I contributed to the mortality of the 1918 pandemic, this is not the primary reason for the high mortality rate and for the fact that it was a very rapid type of mortality (one could feel well in the morning, get a fever by noon and die in the evening). Genetic studies of the 1918 flu have not yielded any tangible reasons, though all the flu viruses (including the seasonal flu) since then are descendants of the 1918 flu virus.

      Since that time there have been two other pandemics – one in 1957, which was anticipated well ahead and a vaccine was ready when it emerged. Another pandemic occurred in 1968, and this was the mildest (bar the current one) in terms of mortality. This was partly because the virus was related to the 1957 one and so herd immunity was present. Besides, antibiotics were available to cure the secondary infections.

      The problem with pandemics such as the present one is that its genetic makeup has been re-assorted. There is some evidence that it might have also been lab produced. It contains genetic material from human, avian and two strains of swine flu coming from three different continents. Thus the general immunity of the population is low.

      So a real threat of very severe flu infection is present, but up to now this does not seem to be the case with his pandemic – but things might change if a genetic modification occurs or if this virus is incubating with other more virulent strains within pigs or humans.

      So please do not ignore the reality of a future threat: I do hope that the authorities are learning their lesson and reviewing their policies.

  4. John Azzopardi says:

    People are simply irrational. They seem to think that if they get the flu they would just drop dead on the spot. I agree that there should not be reporting of cases. If we are going to keep reporting every case we should do the same with the common flu and common cold. Is it just we Maltese who are so irrational!

    • Steve says:

      Why is it the Maltese always think they have a monopoly on irrational and weird behaviour? The Maltese are no different to any other group of people. A lot of posts here seem to imply that Malta and the Maltese have some special negative trait which other countries don’t have. Actually, the only trait the Maltese seem to have as a whole, is the one where they think bad things only happen in Malta.

  5. Alex Scerri says:

    I can’t agree with you more on this one.

    I can’t understand why all the pandemonium in Europe and all over the world as well – why they keep reporting cases, why they closed schools, why people are wearing masks on the road…

    All countries are creating a storm in a teacup.

    It’s just a flu after all!

  6. Dido says:

    If the authorities and media perceive any value emanating from the publication of the numbers of people who have contracted the flu, they might as well start communicating on a daily basis the number of new cancer, diabetes and heart disease cases that have been diagnosed.

  7. David Buttigieg says:

    Actually, as a matter of interest, the 1918 flu was most lethal with healthy adults, i.e. the healthiest segment of the population. Much like SARS, the people who would seem the most likely to resist it were in fact the most likely to die from it. So in fact the mortality rate had nothing to do with people being weaker after the war. Ironically you had more chance of surviving if you were weaker.

    [Daphne – I find that hard to believe, David. By definition, those who are debilitated already go under first. But maybe I’m the one who’s got it all wrong. There are a few doctors hovering around here; perhaps they could help us out on this one.]

    This is because it was the way the immune system reacted that killed the person, and the healthier the immune system was the more aggressive the response to the virus and so the more likely chance of a fatality. And you cannot compare medical knowledge in 1918 to today’s.

    This is not the case with with swine flu. Healthy adults can fight it off without problems and are not even prescribed Tamiflu. The main “problem” with swine flu is that it is a combination of both swine and avian flu, and so humans have no natural defence against it, meaning that it is easier to become infected. But once caught the body fights it as easily as any other flu.

    • David Buttigieg says:

      [Daphne – And bang on cue, David, here’s a geneticist, no less.]

      Well I ain’t gonna argue with no geneticist on these matters rest assured. I’m not quite so presumptuous, but having said that I routinely disobey doctors’ orders when they prescribe antibiotics for colds, coughs and the flu.

      Anyway back to the original question – why are the cases being reported? Simple, as you once pointed out in an article (way before the blog) we Maltese LOVE a good panic.

      Anybody remember the first Gulf War? Everybody hoarding food because they thought Malta would no longer get supplies or something?

      • H.P. Baxxter says:

        Totally irrational hoarding it was, too. On the eve of a nuclear holocaust, I’d be hoarding bags of flour and water purification tablets (or bleach), not corned beef. By the time the 19th March 2003 came round, we’d grown up a bit, thank Mars. Glorious night that was, watching extremely fruitsome anchorwomen with awe-stricken eyes, asking stupid but heartlfelt questions to military experts. But the pleasure was short-lived, as we all knew it would be, and this latest war soon turned boring. Now there’s absolutely bugger all on TV. Which is why we’re latching on to this swine flu business as a makeshift distraction from this infinite boredom that is 2009.

    • Chris II says:

      The real cause for the high mortality and its pattern in the 1918 pandemic is still not clear; persons with an underlying chronic disease were at particular risk once they were infected. On the other hand, the chances that these had some type of immunity due to previous exposure to related viruses would have reduced their risk of becoming infected.

      Another cause of mortality, especially in the younger generation, was underlying tuberculosis.

      To be fair, David’s assertion on the overactive immune system has also been implicated, but this due to genetic variability rather than if a person is very ‘healthy’ or ‘weak’. It is known that genetic differences are the cause of differences in the strength of the immune system e.g. TB, coeliac disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis.

      Interestingly, and this might have some impact on this year’s pandemic, in 1918 there were three waves of infection: summer, autumn and winter. The worst in terms of fatality was autumn, followed by winter. Summer was the mildest. The reason why autumn was worst for fatalities isn’t clear, though a number of reasons have been put forward, including the start of the school year. Children are known to act as super-spreaders. Another theory is that the autumn wave killed off most of the susceptible persons and hence fewer potential victims were alive during the winter months.

  8. tony pace says:

    Interesting comment made by an eminent doctor, who probably recognised my panic tendencies. Apparently, if one is going to catch swine flu better catch it this time round as it seems to be a rather mild viral strain as opposed to the much stronger one they are expecting in the autumn.

    Great, that really pacified me!

    I stand to be corrected but at present we have 17 reported cases per 100,000 pop. 17 x 4 = 68
    With that proportion the UK should have 9350 confirmed cases.

    Anyone knows what the real figure is?

    • Chris II says:

      What is being reported are the ones that are testing positive and tests are only being performed on individuals who have an underlying disease. This has been going on in the UK for over two weeks now and in Malta for one week.

      So the actual number of flu cases is at present unknown in both countries.

      As for my comment, I was referring to the 1918 pandemic – there is no real evidence that we should be expecting an increase in severity in autumn. On the other hand, as the genetics of the individual have some impact on the severity of the flu, it might be (I have no objective evidence) that the responsible genes might have been wiped out or highly reduced during the 1918 pandemic, and thus have not been transmitted to the present generation.

      The scientific community should take this opportunity to look at this possible genetic trait.

      [Daphne – I think I should point out that you’re a geneticist, Chris, and not just another layman speculating.]

  9. john says:

    The 1918/1919 influenza pandemic was a world-wide scourge encompassing continents unaffected by the war. The devastation in Europe cannot be held to account for the high mortality in these far-flung places.

  10. Ganni says:

    It’s interesting to note that newspapers associated with the Opposition (It-Torca) are trying to calm people, while newspapers associated with the government (The Times) seem to make things look worse. Mela kollox kontra f’ dan il-pajjiz?

    • Meddoc says:

      As of late (maybe the influence of Kurt Sansone) The Times has been looking more favourably on the Opposition – or is it only my impression?

  11. kev says:

    You can delete this post – it’s not for viewers. But do read it.

    Your title asks a question. The answer is obvious, but you will not find it in Gharb. If you are to explore such a question you have to take it to its sources. What’s happening in Malta is only a small reflection of what is happening elsewhere.

    It is highly worrying, not to say annoying, that you should take this high ground without exploring the matter beyond these shores; without doing your research. It is easy to quote the Times and pick on local idiots, but the disservice is to yourself because you are coming out as a self-centred petty scribbler who’s no better than Benoit. At least she does not pretend to be a know-it-all. Since you are too impetuous to be spoon-fed, it is you who has to decide to smarten up and do your research. Otherwise, you’re grounded in Lilliput – for ever.

    Google-search ‘H1N1 vaccination quarantine fema’ and spend an hour or two of your precious time (much of which you prefer to waste on Astrid and other insignificants). When you come to what you consider ‘tinfoil’ stuff, don’t stop, check it out, amuse yourself – see what the tinfoil hatters are saying – some of them have spent thousands of hours researching the subject, respect that. Many are dissenting professionals and experts in the field. Respect that too. (It is not easy for professionals, look at what happens when they go public: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25272600-2702,00.html)

    There IS a rabbit hole and it has plenty of entrances, but not for lazy scribblers. In your case, you need to spend two hours of research for every paragraph you write. You’ve been reading too much crap far too long.

    Otherwise, just stick to Piano, Astrid, KMB, Joseph, Jason, Otello and Anglu Bellu. You do a great job there.

    • kev says:

      To add to the above – it is not that what you wrote is wrong. It is simply a fraction of a truth. It goes nowhere. The best service you can give to your readers – given your following – is to warn against taking the vaccine which our government is importing.

      Look at this. It comes up prominently in the above google-search: http://www.ktradionetwork.com/tag/h1n1-flu-pandemic-vaccine/ It’s a case filed with the FBI against WHO, et al by an Austrian investigative journalist. You might disagree with her conclusions (although I can assure you, they are based on many truths), but you cannot fight the facts. Her point is midway through the article:

      “She presents evidence leading to the belief that the bird flu and swine flu viruses have, in fact, been bioengineered in laboratories using funding supplied by the WHO and other government agencies, among others. This “swine flu” is a hybrid of part swine flu, part human flu and part bird flu, something that can only come from laboratories according to many experts.

      “WHO’s claim that this “swine flu” is spreading and a pandemic must be declared ignores the fundamental causes. The viruses that were released were created and released with the help of WHO, and WHO is overwhelmingly responsible for the pandemic in the first place. In addition, the symptoms of the supposed “swine flu” are indistinguishable from regular flu or from the common cold. The “swine flu” does not cause death anymore often than the regular flu causes death.

      “Burgermeister notes that the figures for deaths reported for the “swine flu” are inconsistent and there is no clarity as to how the number of “deaths” has been documented.

      “There is no pandemic potential unless mass vaccinations are carried out to weaponize the flu under the guise of protecting the population.

      “The people of the U.S. will suffer substantial and irreparable harm and injury if they are forced to take this unproven vaccine without their consent in accordance with the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act, National Emergency Act, National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51, Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-20, and the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza.

      “In the U.S. since 2008, Burgermeister charges that those named in her allegations have implemented new and/or accelerated the implementation of laws and regulations designed to strip the citizens of the U.S. of their lawful constitutional rights to refuse an injection. These people have created or allowed provisions to remain in place that make it a criminal act to refuse to take an injection against pandemic viruses. They have imposed other excessive and cruel penalties such as imprisonment and/or quarantine in FEMA camps while barring the citizens of the U.S. from claiming compensation from injury or death from the forced injections. This is in violation of the laws governing federal corruption and the abuse of office as well as of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Through these actions, the named defendants have laid the groundwork for mass genocide.”

      If you think she’s cuckoo, I can imagine the nightmare you’d have had you known she is very close to the truth.

    • kev says:

      “Jane Burgermeister is a dual Irish/Austrian who has written for Nature, the British Medical Journal, and American Prospect. She is the European Correspondent of the Renewable Energy World website. She has written extensively about climate change, biotechnology, and the ecology.”

  12. kev says:

    My last post on this:

    Here is a flashback to the 1976 swine flu scare – watch the video, it has direct relevance today: http://www.prisonplanet.com/canadian-doctor-h1n1-vaccination-a-eugenics-weapon-for-mass-extermination.html

    (They don’t do documentaries like that anymore)

    Jane Burgermeister’s blog is here: http://birdflu666.wordpress.com/

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