How deadly is bird flu?


12 Responses to “How deadly is bird flu?”

  1. EH says:

    Is this why Trish Keenan’s death is now reported everywhere as pneumonia?

  2. sinewave42 says:

    “Subclinical” for this study doesn’t even necessarily mean that the disease was symptomless – it just means that the symptoms weren’t severe enough for the patient to see a medical professional. If I (a middle class Briton (ie even with free healthcare)) got symptomatic, stay-in-bed-moaning-for-a-few-days flu, the closest I’d get to medical care would probably be texting a friend to ask them to get me some Lucozade – especially if I wasn’t aware it was likely to be an easily transmissable, pandemic strain. I suppose seeing a medical professional with unpleasant but non-lifethreatening flu is even less likely for poor, rural Thais.

  3. Trevel says:

    The real beauty of this is, they can cut the death rate significantly just by getting better at detecting it. 

  4. Ben Becker says:

    I just moved to Hong Kong from the US about a month ago, and observed how the people and the media are deathly afraid of a bird flu pandemic. Last week, I became very ill with a fever, and after sustaining a constant 38 degree temp for about 5 days decided to visit a health clinic. The doctors there confirmed that I had a fever (really? Thanks!) and gave me some Tylenol and sent me on my way. But at no point was a sample taken to determine which strain of a virus I had developed. I’m still quite sick and I actually came to the same conclusion as your article as I left the clinic; no one knows how many people have bird flu in Hong Kong, but a lot of us are wearing masks!

  5. Well the bird flu scare lasted just long enough for Rumsfeld and his cronies to make a few hundred million off of Tamiflu. Hmm…

  6. by the same token there may be many that die from bird flu that they write off as having died from dengue or some other disease that exhibits the same symptoms.

  7. serpent says:

    I always thought that the mortality is reversely proportional to infectivity.  The virus is a dangerous killer when living deep in the respiratory tract, in the lungs. That also means that it has longer way out of there – less virus particles get sneezed out, infecting others. However, if the virus infect only upper respiratory tract, being less dangerous, the infectivity goes up.  So you have either a fast spreading nuisance or a slow killer, not both.

  8. Ian G says:

    While I think the science reasoning behind this skeptical approach is sound, the policy position is irresponsible. 

    We don’t spend enough energy on counter-flu research and vaccines, or treat illness as a whole with proper caution.  On one side is excessive fear based on a misunderstanding of the science, but on the other is anti-science suppression of necessary work that needs to be done for health and safety. We need more anti-virals and flu research, and stories like this that promote “D’awww, it’s not all that bad…” push the public into a false sense of security. 

    I believe that the CDC wisely operates on the precautionary principle, and since they are not calling for us to tape up our faces and homes with plastic wrap, only to handle this virus as a potential world changer when studying it, I am inclined to side with them…. even understanding the preliminary science may show lower risk.

  9. zara2 says:

    One data point here but I was one of the people who contracted the Avian H1N1.  I was travelling in SE asia (Malaysia.) and have a habit of visiting any interesting food markets and think I must have contracted it there.  I did not come down with anything until I landed in Chicago on my way home and had a high fever and the usual set of bad flu like symptoms.  I’m still not sure why customs didn’t stop me but they didn’t and I went on home.  

    Since I had been traveling in a possible Malaria/Dengue fever zone I went to the doctor.  Who recommended the usual sort of thing (tylenol/advil rotation, rest, liquids ect.) By the time the positive test came back I was feeling better.  At no time did I feel like I was going to die but a few times I wish I had.  Honestly, it was just a really bad flu.  No one else in my family contracted it and all was fine. 

  10. Gustaf Rydevik says:

    But this is nothing unique to bird flu – it’s the case for most infectious diseases that doesn’t have utterly clear symptoms. So the deeper question becomes: Is H5N1 *more* underdiagnosed than whatever disease we are comparing the death rate with?

  11. kjs3 says:

    I noted essentially the same thing here:  Interestingly, some commenters dismissed me as not being qualified to dispute the death toll number (just an IT type and former math major, but not alas a medical professional).  I note none of them doing that here.

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