Thursday, March 23, 2006

yikes! media overload

so i've been hearing a lot about this "bird flu" possible soon-to-be pandemic and have been kind of flippant about my response to the hype. you know, "if it happens, it happens" and so forth. besides, i'm thirty, in arguably the best health i'll ever be in... then i read this.

for my lazier readers, here's the deal: H5N1, the avian flu that's freaking world health officials out, is very similar to H1N1, the flu that smacked the world around in 1918. the yearly seasonal flu that we're used to is brutal to the very old and very young, but conventional wisdom says that people of my age and health background should be cool. but, In 1918, the vast majority of the people who died were healthy young people, 20 to 40 years of age. And that was in large part because they had the strongest immune systems. the reason? because these strains of influenza don't kill due to inadequate immune responses; they are killer because the body fights so hard that the immune system kills us in the process of fighting the flu. people's lungs fill with fluid and they drown.

as a side note, and to assist in you not crapping your drawers, H1N1 had a mortality rate of about 5%. the bird to human H5N1 is working about a 50% mortality rate. if it does mutate into a (several?) human to human strain(s), the mortality rate will very likely drop. evolution in action, folks: the virus requires a living host to replicate and spread.

but still...

urban survival has been leaving me kind of on edge about it, too, but i take his stuff with a grain of salt. very smart and insightful, but a bit too alarmist for me to care too much--leaves me thinking that if it happens, i have no recourse so why bother worrying...

then i watched charlie rose. he had a panel on last night that concurred with the "if you're 20-40, you're screwed" crowd. here's my summary of some of that part of the show:

remember SARS? when that was the next big pandemic the asians quarantined SARS patients with AIDS patients. apparently, none of the AIDS patients contracted SARS. why? because SARS, like H1N1 and H5N1, kills with immuno-response, not on its own. so it pays to have a weakened immune system.

shit.

maybe if i start smoking again i can weaken my lungs enough to survive this pandemic...

by the way, ya'll, the bird flu may not be the pandemic, but something will be... apparently there've been 10 pandemics in the past 300 years (roughly one every 30 years), and i guess we're about due. apparently, according to one of rose's guests, the last pandemic was in 1976. i'll let you do the math.

eesh.