Tuesday, May 05, 2009


As an educated bloke with almost total inadequacy at science - sorry but I lost interest in or around 4c - I like to try and make as much sense as I can of scientific news. If I get it I figure most people will be able to get it. So here is what I think I get so far on the whole swine-flu jobbie.

As Andy Hamilton pointed out on The News Quiz last Friday, the best way to scare people right now is to sneeze into your sombrero. Whilst I don't discount the possibility of a horribly ironic death later today I have been enthralled by all the media-conscious, swine-flu victims being interviewed on the tele recently. The nub of their comments is, 'We were a bit poorly for a short while.'

The test for influenza is this; a £50 note blows past the window. If you get up and get it you haven't got the flu.

Swine flu is a virus causing flu-like symptoms. Those with already decreased immunity may die, just as they may have died when a common cold became bronchitis, became pneumonia, became the end. The rest of us, barring further mutations of this virus, even if we get it, will probably live. If we catch it we will catch it off people not pigs, so the beauties I saw at the North Somerset show yesterday looked good and will probably taste good too. Most of us there nearly died of cold but that is irrelevant.

I also imagine that epidemic and pandemic have particularly stringent definitions so when the terms are used by scientists they mean something. When they are used by our lazier journalists they become confused. Let's do what I laughingly call research and look them up in an online dictionary:

Pandemic (adjective. 1666. From the Greek pan = all; demos = people) occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population.

Epidemic (adjective. 1603. From the Greek epi= among; demos - people) affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time.

Notice the date of birth of the term pandemic. The Great Plague. NTWICAP. So the current stats show that swine flu has reached a wide area but has not yet covered a large proportion of the population so it is neither an epidemic nor a pandemic.

The imaginary healthometer on my sidebar informs you it is safe to carry on.

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