Half of Americans will get swine flu and 90,000 will die?

The White House is putting out dire warnings about swine flu:

Swine flu may infect half the U.S. population this year, hospitalize 1.8 million patients and lead to as many as 90,000 deaths, more than twice the number killed in a typical seasonal flu, White House advisers said.

In a report by the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, President Barack Obama today was urged to speed vaccine production and name a senior member of the White House staff, preferably the homeland security adviser, to take responsibility for decision-making on the pandemic. Initial doses should be accelerated to mid-September to vaccinate as many as 40 million people, the advisory group said.

Seasonal flu usually kills about 36,000 Americans, said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Swine flu, also called H1N1, causes more severe illness needing hospitalization among younger people than seasonal flu, while leaving people 65 and older relatively unscathed, said Mike Shaw of the CDC.

“This isn’t the flu that we’re used to,” said Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. “The 2009 H1N1 virus will cause a more serious threat this fall. We won’t know until we’re in the middle of the flu season how serious the threat is, but because it’s a new strain, it’s likely to infect more people than usual.” . . .

“We are making every preparation effort assuming a safe and effective vaccine will be available in mid-October,” Sebelius said today at the CDC’s Atlanta offices.

According to what the advisory report describes as a “plausible scenario,” 30 percent to 50 percent of the country’s population will be infected in the fall and winter. As many as 300,000 patients may be treated in hospital intensive care units, filling 50 percent to 100 percent of the available beds, and 30,000 to 90,000 people may die, the report said.

Do you expect it to be that bad? It sounds like we’ll have a vaccine fairly soon, which should mitigate these worst case scenarios. Why scare people like this?

It has been said that governments often instill fear in their populations as a way to seize more power. Oh, the terrorists are going to kill us all. We’d better let the government take us to war. Oh, the economy is collapsing and we’re going to have the Great Depression all over again. We’d better let the government take over the economy. Oh, the plague is coming. We’d better let the government take over health care.

Of course, there ARE legitimate dangers that we have to deal with. How can we tell the difference between those and political fears? It seems that panic, in general, is a bad thing when facing any danger. FDR, though we might question his ideology, was a good leader and in facing the actual depression he first calmed the country down, saying that people should NOT fear. Shouldn’t we be automatically suspicious when our leaders–of any party– try to scare us to death?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Joe

    “Shouldn’t we be automatically suspicious when our leaders–of any party– try to scare us to death?”

    I think you could just leave it at: Shouldn’t we be automatically suspicious of our leaders? and the answer is yes. As Bob Novak said, “Always love your country, but never trust your government.”

  • Joe

    “Shouldn’t we be automatically suspicious when our leaders–of any party– try to scare us to death?”

    I think you could just leave it at: Shouldn’t we be automatically suspicious of our leaders? and the answer is yes. As Bob Novak said, “Always love your country, but never trust your government.”

  • Orianna Laun

    After having sat through multiple sales pitches where the seller uses the same techniques (“. . .if you don’t buy our green chemicals, your household could become sick, sick, sick. . .” “. . .by buying our photo-preserving system your pictures won’t yellow and decay. . .”), I am suspicious.
    “Knowing is half the battle,” as the G.I. Joe saying went. Maybe we should do a little more digging to get a less-biased angle and think for ourselves rather than letting the sound-bites make up our minds for us.

  • Orianna Laun

    After having sat through multiple sales pitches where the seller uses the same techniques (“. . .if you don’t buy our green chemicals, your household could become sick, sick, sick. . .” “. . .by buying our photo-preserving system your pictures won’t yellow and decay. . .”), I am suspicious.
    “Knowing is half the battle,” as the G.I. Joe saying went. Maybe we should do a little more digging to get a less-biased angle and think for ourselves rather than letting the sound-bites make up our minds for us.

  • CRB

    Proverbs 3:5!!!

  • CRB

    Proverbs 3:5!!!

  • scots

    Never let a crisis go to waste!!

  • scots

    Never let a crisis go to waste!!

  • Joe

    Orianna – nice pull on the G.I. Joe reference. That made my day.

  • Joe

    Orianna – nice pull on the G.I. Joe reference. That made my day.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I think it’s a little odd that Veith asks “why scare people like this” while his own headline deliberately cites the worst-case ends of the ranges predicted. If we’re trying not to be sensational here, why not title this entry “30 percent of Americans will get swine flu and 30,000 will die?”

    As to the former statistic, unless I’m mistaken, they actually predicted what number of people will “be infected”, which is not the same as “getting swine flu” as most people would define it. Just because you’re infected doesn’t mean you develop symptoms. Maybe I’m wrong.

    As to the latter number, if 36,000 Americans annually die due to seasonal flu, it’s not hard to imagine the lower range of “30,000 to 90,000 people may die”, is it? It happens almost every year! (Only the strains are different.)

    Of course, there’s also the issue of Veith asserting that “The White House is putting out dire warnings about swine flu”. Technically true, I suppose, but after reading that, you’d think that the White House was actually issuing warnings about this directly to the public.

    Of course, if you actually read the article, you see something different, which is the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
    releasing a report on H1N1 preparations. Isn’t that something we’d want the White House to do, to assess our readiness and make changes as necessary to meet anticipated problems? But nooOOoo, this gets spun as fearmongering on the order of that which lead us into the Iraq War. Right.

    Of course, missing among all the paranoia is a suggestion of what, exactly, the government is trying to get from such alleged fearmongering. It’s clear what they wanted (and got) when they spread fear of terrorists and another Depression. But what’s the angle supposed to be here? For us all to wash our hands more? To make sure that we all get the vaccine? Which, what, also contains an ingredient that will make us more susceptible to Marxism and want to give up our guns oh my goodness that’s probably exactly it oh I knew it would happen like this run for the hills people run for the hills.

    And what about the media’s role in playing up hysteria because it sells? Where is the vaunted right-wing suspicion/hatred of the media? I guess it goes out the window when there’s an opportunity to suggest Obama is fearmongering. (So there’s your paranoia pecking order, for what it’s worth: attack Obama first, media second.)

    No, seriously. Our government is attempting to prepare for a flu season that is anticipated to be worse than most. The only action that might be suggested by this is to get a flu shot, just like every year. How many vaccines will the government need to prepare? Why, to know that, they’d need some sort of planning document! Hmmm.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I think it’s a little odd that Veith asks “why scare people like this” while his own headline deliberately cites the worst-case ends of the ranges predicted. If we’re trying not to be sensational here, why not title this entry “30 percent of Americans will get swine flu and 30,000 will die?”

    As to the former statistic, unless I’m mistaken, they actually predicted what number of people will “be infected”, which is not the same as “getting swine flu” as most people would define it. Just because you’re infected doesn’t mean you develop symptoms. Maybe I’m wrong.

    As to the latter number, if 36,000 Americans annually die due to seasonal flu, it’s not hard to imagine the lower range of “30,000 to 90,000 people may die”, is it? It happens almost every year! (Only the strains are different.)

    Of course, there’s also the issue of Veith asserting that “The White House is putting out dire warnings about swine flu”. Technically true, I suppose, but after reading that, you’d think that the White House was actually issuing warnings about this directly to the public.

    Of course, if you actually read the article, you see something different, which is the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
    releasing a report on H1N1 preparations. Isn’t that something we’d want the White House to do, to assess our readiness and make changes as necessary to meet anticipated problems? But nooOOoo, this gets spun as fearmongering on the order of that which lead us into the Iraq War. Right.

    Of course, missing among all the paranoia is a suggestion of what, exactly, the government is trying to get from such alleged fearmongering. It’s clear what they wanted (and got) when they spread fear of terrorists and another Depression. But what’s the angle supposed to be here? For us all to wash our hands more? To make sure that we all get the vaccine? Which, what, also contains an ingredient that will make us more susceptible to Marxism and want to give up our guns oh my goodness that’s probably exactly it oh I knew it would happen like this run for the hills people run for the hills.

    And what about the media’s role in playing up hysteria because it sells? Where is the vaunted right-wing suspicion/hatred of the media? I guess it goes out the window when there’s an opportunity to suggest Obama is fearmongering. (So there’s your paranoia pecking order, for what it’s worth: attack Obama first, media second.)

    No, seriously. Our government is attempting to prepare for a flu season that is anticipated to be worse than most. The only action that might be suggested by this is to get a flu shot, just like every year. How many vaccines will the government need to prepare? Why, to know that, they’d need some sort of planning document! Hmmm.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Actually, when I read the article, it states exactly what our host says, and in true AP style, it puts the dire warnings first.

    I hope that it’s just fearmongering, but in a world where we’re creating all kinds of neat bugs by monster factory farming, it might not be.

    Notice that the CDC is predicting things could get a lot worse when school is back in session. In other words, get people together in large groups, and disease is spread. And yet government types are pushing for ever larger groups of people together each day by subsidizing daycare, bigger schools, air travel, and such.

    One wonders if we could greatly reduce diseases of this sort by bypassing the CDC entirely and ending our ill-founded subsidies…

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Actually, when I read the article, it states exactly what our host says, and in true AP style, it puts the dire warnings first.

    I hope that it’s just fearmongering, but in a world where we’re creating all kinds of neat bugs by monster factory farming, it might not be.

    Notice that the CDC is predicting things could get a lot worse when school is back in session. In other words, get people together in large groups, and disease is spread. And yet government types are pushing for ever larger groups of people together each day by subsidizing daycare, bigger schools, air travel, and such.

    One wonders if we could greatly reduce diseases of this sort by bypassing the CDC entirely and ending our ill-founded subsidies…

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bravo, Bubba (@7). It takes a keen conservative mind to work out the connection between public schools and H1N1. Because if it weren’t for the government, absolutely no one would gather together in large groups. There would be no private daycare, no large schools, and no air travel. Right. And clearly the CDC is holding us back from truly dealing with the flu. Naturally.

    Honestly, is this a serious argument, or just a laundry list of conservative complaints repackaged for this thread?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bravo, Bubba (@7). It takes a keen conservative mind to work out the connection between public schools and H1N1. Because if it weren’t for the government, absolutely no one would gather together in large groups. There would be no private daycare, no large schools, and no air travel. Right. And clearly the CDC is holding us back from truly dealing with the flu. Naturally.

    Honestly, is this a serious argument, or just a laundry list of conservative complaints repackaged for this thread?

  • http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com/ Dave Spotts

    Of course, it could all be the pandemic that wasn’t, with all the extra concern about hand sanitizing, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding going out anywhere for at least 24 hours after a fever has broken.

    Hey, if we all watched our health the way they try to teach preschoolers to do it, maybe we’d find that a lot fewer people became sick and died every year.

  • http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com/ Dave Spotts

    Of course, it could all be the pandemic that wasn’t, with all the extra concern about hand sanitizing, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding going out anywhere for at least 24 hours after a fever has broken.

    Hey, if we all watched our health the way they try to teach preschoolers to do it, maybe we’d find that a lot fewer people became sick and died every year.

  • MarkB

    Todd @ 6 said:

    “As to the latter number, if 36,000 Americans annually die due to seasonal flu, it’s not hard to imagine the lower range of “30,000 to 90,000 people may die”, is it? It happens almost every year! (Only the strains are different.)”

    Todd there is one other difference. Those that normally die of the yearly flu strains are mostly elderly. This particular strain seems to strike middle aged, young adults and children. The severe symptoms also seem to be worse for pregnant women and the over weight which is a large percentage of the US population. All these things can change though if this particular flu strain morphs into something more deadly or less deadly. I pray that it is the latter.

    I work for a company that produces foam for use in N-95 face masks that people use to try to help keep from getting this flu and other contagious diseases. The company we supply is stockpiling our foam and making masks at a rate about 3 to 4 times the norm.

    I do not know if this will be a disaster or not, but some companies are spending a lot of money to be prepared.

  • MarkB

    Todd @ 6 said:

    “As to the latter number, if 36,000 Americans annually die due to seasonal flu, it’s not hard to imagine the lower range of “30,000 to 90,000 people may die”, is it? It happens almost every year! (Only the strains are different.)”

    Todd there is one other difference. Those that normally die of the yearly flu strains are mostly elderly. This particular strain seems to strike middle aged, young adults and children. The severe symptoms also seem to be worse for pregnant women and the over weight which is a large percentage of the US population. All these things can change though if this particular flu strain morphs into something more deadly or less deadly. I pray that it is the latter.

    I work for a company that produces foam for use in N-95 face masks that people use to try to help keep from getting this flu and other contagious diseases. The company we supply is stockpiling our foam and making masks at a rate about 3 to 4 times the norm.

    I do not know if this will be a disaster or not, but some companies are spending a lot of money to be prepared.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    tODD, it’s a serious argument. People do get together, but the scale of the meetings increases with government interference. That will, ceterus parabus, worsen the outbreaks of any easily contagious disease.

    We need to seriously think of the consequences to our actions, governmentally speaking.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    tODD, it’s a serious argument. People do get together, but the scale of the meetings increases with government interference. That will, ceterus parabus, worsen the outbreaks of any easily contagious disease.

    We need to seriously think of the consequences to our actions, governmentally speaking.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X